4 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From a Roman Emperor

These four calls to action, inspired by a Roman emperor, are useful for leading through challenging times.

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By Les Ottolenghi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When we are young, the word "leader" is influenced by the stories of mythological gods, comic book heroes and athletes splashed across Wheaties boxes and Olympic podiums. As our minds fill up with others' stories, we are often unaware that our own brand of leadership is shaping itself and one day it will be our turn to come forward.

Adversity has a unique way of bringing out our inner leader. Monumental times in history, whether through war, climate crises, economic trials or pandemics, sharpen our abilities. Challenges demonstrate how leaders can emerge from the shadows on any given day and step into the shoes they were meant to fill.

Over time we hone in on what type of leader we want to be and the legacy we most want to leave behind. For me, technology is my modality and my universe. I am invigorated by the potential of innovation to solve some of our world's most pressing problems. Leading a team through the daily challenges of running a digital enterprise is complex. I use my specialized expertise and abilities to further our shared vision, and I look to others on my team who have their own areas of strength to add to the dynamic of progress.

Here are four calls to action — based on the Stoic philosophy championed by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius — that I find to be incredibly useful for leading through challenging times.

1. Wear resilience like a rain jacket.

"You have the power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

Recognize where you can effect change and accept that there will be surprises, variability, and setbacks. You can outlast any problem if you channel your time and efforts wisely.

Related: 8 Keys to Coach John Wooden's Servant Leadership

2. Set an example for your team.

"Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."

Your team is always looking to you for guidance, reassurance and inspiration.

Related: How to Retain Employees Through 'Servant' Leadership

3. Don't falter in your integrity.

"If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it."

The truth is always available to you.

4. Envision success, even if it is still evolving.

"The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it."

It's easy to catastrophize to the worst-case scenario. Instead, refocus and direct mental energy on the best possible paths and outcomes.

Our best traits and sensibilities evolve with adversity's sharpening effect. Each of us has the unique ability to harness the power of our thoughts, weather the tough times, and lead our teams and communities towards a brighter future.

Related: Why Servant Leadership is Becoming the Leadership Style of the Future

Les Ottolenghi

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor


Les Ottolenghi delivers IT transformation and innovation, fueling digital leadership in business through the implementation of disruptive technologies, new-product leadership and nimble digital-service-development strategies.

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