Stoicism

This Ancient Greek & Roman philosophy is worthy of a page to itself, such is the power it offers modern life and leadership.

But let’s start with what I mean by Philosophy…

A theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour.” It is to find a practical way of living, not a University academic subject. This is the same kind of definition that Stoics looked for, as it comes from the Greek word philosophia, meaning “love of wisdom.”

Stoicism then was an Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy designed to help us live the best life possible, regardless of your circumstances. It was practical, not theoretical, and that is why it has survived for so long.

Let me whet your appetite. It is an incredibly influential philosophy. Among those who have been influenced, or declared themselves as a practicing Stoic, we find Presidents Washington, Roosevelt and Obama, authors including Shakespeare, JK Rowling, Robert Greene, Mark Manson, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, entrepreneurs Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Jack Dorsey and Ray Dalio, as well as entertainers of all types, Arnold Schwarzennegger, Derren Brown, LL Cool J and Anna Kendrick.

Stoicism forms the root of many modern leadership and personal development ideas. The founders of CBT were quite open in explaining how Stoicism influenced their thinking, as is the psychological Adlerian theory, Adler being one of the most influential psychologists alongside Freud and Jung. We can find Stoic roots (whether they know it or not), in models and advice from Steven Covey, Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Dale Carnegie, Carol Dweck, Angela Duckworth, Matthew Syed… the list goes on and on.

Hopefully I’ve grabbed your interest whilst I explain what Stoicism is. It is a mental model that helps us develop our own sense of ethics and values, a framework by which we are always aiming to be the best people we can be, enjoying a full range of emotions but using them to our advantage, rather than being submissive to our emotions.

A key element of Stoicism is focusing on what we control, which is actually very little. We control things like our responses (mirrored in modern Mindfulness advice), our effort and our discipline. We do not control what others think of us, other peoples reactions, or how customers react. Yes we influence, but we certainly don’t control. Breaking our goals into elements we control has a real business and personal impact.

So why does it work so well now? Our workplace is changing, and leadership is undergoing a revolution. The boundaries we once knew are disappearing, we need a new set of individual boundaries so that we can lead ourselves and lead others, regardless of where we sit in an organisation.

Our workplaces are far more flexible, in terms of time and location. Our ability to always stay connected to the workplace has never been greater, and will only increase. This brings different pressure, a greater sense of burnout. Where are our boundaries here?

Leaders who once told us what to do, the market place for this style of leadership is disappearing. Management and leadership are very different, we want and need emotionally aware leaders who inspire us to deliver great things, and who help us with creating the meaning in our work, to build that emotional connection regardless of what we are doing. We want leaders who we can choose to follow.

There are key elements of Stoicism that help us build that resilience, our own ethical framework, and to aim for the right things in life. It teaches us about wisdom, fairness, and moral courage. It teaches us about how to deal with dilemmas in the workplace and in our life, and to do the right thing even when it’s hard. It builds character and discipline. Importantly, it helps us focus on what we control, not worrying about what we don’t. It helps us achieve a more peaceful state of mind so that we can be better people. It teaches us responsibility.

Stoicism is having a resurgence, thanks to modern authors like Ryan Holiday, Donald Robertson and Massimo Piggiucci among others. Is it coincidence that this is happening at the same time as leadership and workplaces are changing? I think Stoicism is seeing a resurgence because of the changes.

How powerful can knowledge of the principles of Stoicism be in the workplace, and for the benefit of leadership within your organisation? EAS has been founded in order to deliver this awareness, and how to implement the principles as leaders, of ourselves and others. If you believe as I do, that this can really help in your organisation, then please get in touch.