Leadership Philosophy v Leadership Model


Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

What do these people have in common?

Presidents Roosevelt, Obama, and Washington, actress Anna Kendrick, musician LLCoolJ, authors JK Rowling, Robert Greene, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, entrepreneurs Ray Dalio (Bridgewater Associates), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, finally Arnold Schwarzenegger, Derren Brown, Marcus Aurelius and Shakespeare.

The answer is they all share a heavy influence from the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, perhaps the world’s original personal development system. When we consider this list, it is easy to see the truth of this quote…

“It is undoubtedly people with such a mindset as the Stoics, who will become the captains of industry, the most honest politicians, the wisest and the wealthiest in this material world…” Dr Gary Bannister

So influential is Stoicism today, many personal development advisors have used it as a foundation, knowingly or otherwise such as Steven Covey’s “7 Habits”, or much of the material published by Tony Robbins. The goal was to develop a sense of tranquillity (mindfulness), through developing our own wisdom, courage and fairness amongst other things. The philosophy challenged our perception of life and what we control (the creators of Cognitive Based Therapy were open about using Stoicism as a basis for CBT). In other words, all the things important for being an inspiring leader.

The word Stoicism has connotations of having a stiff upper lip with no emotion. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It encourages feeling all emotions, it’s a joy of being human, but being able to respond to them appropriately…much the same as modern mindfulness techniques teach us.

There is a world of difference between being a self-declared Stoic, and using Stoicism as a philosophy. Not only does using the philosophy help us as individuals, it can absolutely develop leaders and create more healthy organisations. I know, because I have used it in policing, and so have all the people above. Ray Dalio for example, runs Bridgewater with some very Stoic principles, the company now handles a portfolio worth over $130 billion.

I used it to achieve some of our performance goals, and when it came to customer service from our CID department, we achieved the best performance nationally, because we used this philosophy.

“A theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour.” Oxford Dictionary

Life is messy, and is likely to carry on getting even messier with how our lives are changing in and out of the workplace. For these reasons I am not a great fan of leadership or management “models.” Yes they have their use and be incredibly useful, but does any model stand the test of life? This is why developing a philosophy, a set of guiding principals by which we can develop our behaviour, is so much more useful.

It is up to us to create our own philosophy. For me, I see little benefit completely reinventing that wheel when I believe there are some perfectly good philosophies out there. I have chosen Stoicism, and have the task of developing that happy co-existence between the reality of my life, how I want my life to be, and the guidance offered by a philosophy that has stood the test of time. fffff

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