Use this ancient philosophy to lead through turbulent times

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One of the defining moments of my career came when I knew I had to make a very difficult decision that was probably going to cost me my job. Even though this decision went against the nepotistic dynamic I found myself in, it was fundamentally the right thing to do, both morally and for the organization. I made the decision and then dealt with the consequences from a place of serenity drawing on the consolation of ancient philosophy, especially the Stoics.

In modern times, most acts of courage take place when we are alone, grappling with the rightness of difficult choices – especially when you go against a powerful current belief. This is exactly where the ancient philosophy of Stoicism confronts the harsh contingencies of life with wisdom and logic.

I first encountered stoicism as a philosophy major when I was very young in college and faced increasing life challenges that I wasn’t really equipped to handle. In search of a solution, a professor recommended the work of Marc Aurèle meditations. After all, why start from scratch on these questions, when others have felt and considered them before?

So I read meditations and loved his unsentimental and unvarnished approach to the human experience: The condition of humanity is universal for everything humanity. We all suffer, we all cry and we all experience joys and difficulties, regardless of the dimensions often considered to separate us, such as race, religion, nationality and gender.

Stoicism addresses our most complex issues and demonstrates how both normal and natural emotions are often at the root of poor judgment and bad decisions.

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What is Stoicism?

With its origins in ancient Athens, Stoicism redefined the source of happiness. It cannot be found in the outer material world but in the pursuit of the cardinal virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage and justice. Stoicism teaches that difficult problems are good for you and that solutions to these problems often take time to resolve through objective analysis.

He explains that both good and bad times are temporary. When you deal with how you feel about an event, you deal with the event better. You applied cool objectivity rather than hot emotions. The four principles provide a framework for making very strong decisions in all dimensions of the challenges:

  1. Wisdom asks what is in your control and what is out of your control as a logical basis for solving problems.
  2. Temperance brings objectivity and emotional neutrality to any debate or decision.
  3. Courage is a principle of self-sacrifice where you do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because you get some reward or accolade from it.
  4. Justice is the source of all virtues, defined as thought and action working together for the common good.

Stoicism emphasizes objective logic and maintaining an equal emotional state, rather than personalizing events beyond your control. In a time in the United States where everyone is so quick to get angry and others are at risk of being undone, stoicism can bring serenity to dialogue. And where there is dialogue, there is much more chance of finding a solution when people are calm and willing to listen.

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How does stoicism apply to leadership?

In turbulent times, people often feel fearful and threatened from the top down of an organization, leading to bad behavior based on those fears and threats. As leaders, we have a responsibility to be calm and steady in a crisis – and to make decisions that benefit the whole, rather than acting out of self-interest.

Most people tend to make a judgment and then look for facts that support the judgment – a causal link to explain their choices. In the world of Stoic thought, this is completely backward. Instead, collect all the data, listen to everyone, and then make the best decision possible.

The first time you really apply stoicism to the way you lead can be uncomfortable and confusing, because you’re probably fundamentally changing the way you made decisions and interacted with people before. But with the calm lightness and consistency it brings, in my experience it always leads to the best decisions with the best chance of positive outcomes..

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Stoicism in Turbulent Times

When difficult decisions have to be made, we must recognize that we are interdependent. Both in good times and in bad times, for better or for worse.

As a leader, if you’re scared, your team is going to be fear. If you are consistent and consistent, your team will be too.

Emotions are often tricky little liars. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are often the root of ill-considered decisions that increase the chances of bad outcomes rather than the chances of good ones. These behaviors often serve to block you and isolate you from the best solutions.

Leaders who are overly sensitive to their emotional state make reactive (and often incorrect) decisions because they are motivated by correcting the uncomfortable emotional state rather than the right action. Stoicism thwarts emotional reactions and helps leaders calmly make the decision that is best for the team unit, not just one individual.

When you lead with stoicism, let your steady demeanor show others that you will make better decisions and build confidence and psychological safety in your team.

Stoicism is vital in these uncertain times because it teaches you to endure the discomfort of difficult decisions knowing that if you follow its principles you will arrive at the best answer for yourself, your mission and those who rely on you every step of the way. time.