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  • Breaking Barriers

Qualities of a Mindful Leader by Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher)

States will never be happy until rulers become philosophers or philosophers become

rulers. —PLATO, The Republic



The following qualities and guidelines are curated from the personal Journal of Marcus Aurelius, called as "Meditations". These were mere conversations with self. The qualities of a great leader are:

  1. Have self-control and resistance to distractions.

  2. Have optimism in adversity—especially illness.

  3. Have a personality in balance: dignity and grace together.

  4. Do your job without whining.

  5. Have other people’s certainty that what you say is what you think and do, and what you do is done without malice.

  6. Never take aback or be apprehensive. Neither rash nor hesitant—or bewildered, or at a loss. Don't be obsequious—but not aggressive or paranoid either.

  7. Be generous and honest, do charity.

  8. Don't make anyone feel patronized in your presence or be in a position to be patronized by others.

  9. Have a sense of humor and be cheerful, without requiring other people’s help. Or serenity supplied by others.

  10. Don't shrug off a friend’s resentment—even unjustified resentment—but try to put things right.

  11. Show your teachers ungrudging respect, and your children genuine love.

  12. Listen to anyone who could contribute to the public good.

  13. Search for questions at meetings. Be single-minded,almost, never be content with first impressions, or break off the discussion prematurely.

  14. Be self-reliant, always.

  15. Handle the material comforts that fortune had supplied you in such abundance—without arrogance and without apology. If they are there, take advantage of them. If not, don’t miss them.

  16. Be a man tested by life, accomplished, unswayed by flattery, qualified to govern both yourself and others.

  17. Make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time—even when hard at work.

  18. Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people—unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind.

  19. Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors. If you can privilege your own mind, your guiding spirit and your reverence for its powers, that should keep you clear of dramatics, of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  20. Your ability to control your thoughts—treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions—false to your nature, and that of all rational beings. It’s what makes thoughtfulness possible, and affection for other people, and submission to the divine.


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