Stoicism is considered one of the first life philosophies. It is described as the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.” In addition, Stoics believe that we are all equal regardless of wealth, status, power, or possession.
I recently read a very interesting article on Inc.com that explains how the writings of the well-known Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, contain several rules that leaders can benefit from:
- Understand what you can control (and what you can't) - "The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control ... " In leadership it’s important to understand what you can control and what you can not control. We need to focus our energy on those factors we can control. Stressing over factors in life that are out of our control will lead to ineffectiveness in leadership and a feeling of helplessness.
- Understand what it takes to be better - "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid." In other words, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn and improve. It’s how we grow both as a leader and as an organization. Don’t worry about what people think of you – it will only hold you back.
- Understand other people's motivations - "Whenever anyone assents to what is false, one may be sure that he does not willingly give his assent to falsehood but rather that what is false seemed to him to be true." Look at the other side of things. Leaders must be able to see all points of view. This doesn’t mean you agree with all of them – just that you can see other points of view. Remember, your customers will also have different points of view so it’s important to view issues and challenges from all sides.
- Understand your emotional (over)reactions - "If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation." When someone provokes an emotional reaction out of you, ask yourself why you feel that way. This is called psychological distancing. It can help you separate your feelings from being a part of you and looking at them from a distance. Often, you’ll be able to figure out why it elicited the feelings you are having.
How do you apply stoicism in your leadership style? Email me at [email protected].