Posted January 29, 2004
Thoughts well worth pondering on leadership
by Marcus Tullius Cicero in his work: On Duty
A truly wise and great spirit believes that in deeds rather than fame is the goodness which is Nature’s goal. He chooses to be a leader rather than to seem so, for a man who is dependent on the vagrant opinion of the ignorant masses cannot be counted one of the great. The more ambitious a man is, the more easily can a desire for fame lead him to act of injustice. We are here on slippery ground, for where is the man who has faced danger and conquered difficulties who does not wish to be rewarded with glory for his accomplishments? A soul that is altogether brave and great is distinguished by two main characteristics. One is his indifference to externals, for he is convinced that a man should never admire, or desire, or work for anything but what is good and seemly, and should never give way to any other man or any passion or any hardship of fortune.
The second characteristic is that, having trained his spirit as we have just said, he will do deeds both splendid and highly useful, as well as extremely arduous and fraught with labor and danger to his own life and to many of the things that make life worth living.
It is the second of these two characteristics that ensures for him all glory and grandeur and usefulness to others, but the cause and the intelligence that make the man great lie in the first. That is what makes a man superior and indifferent to human things. You can see this in two ways. First, he considers goodness the only good, and second, he is free from all passion. For it takes a brave and great mind to treat as unimportant what seems to the masses most wonderful and splendid, and to despise them on firm and fixed principles. And it requires a spirit of much strength and constancy to bear all the pains, many and various, that meet us in human life and fate without losing the natural state and dignity of a wise man. And a man who is not to be shattered by fear cannot consistently be shaken by desire, nor should one who cannot be conquered by toil be conquered by pleasure. We must therefore beware of all these things and also of greed for money. For nothing is so characteristic of a narrow and small mind as a love of money, and nothing is more honorable and magnanimous than contempt for it, if you have none, and benevolent and generous spending of it, if you have it.
We should beware, too, as I have said, of too much glory, for it deprives us of the liberty that is the prize for which all great men struggle.