Cicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership
Cicero (106-43 BC)
Roman philosopher (pictured right) and politician, executed for his speeches against Mark Antony after the
murder of Julius Caesar.
What did he say about success and leadership?
1. People and morals come first
“The good of the people is the chief law”, Cicero said.
So any political decision must:
- achieve “the highest good”.
- be morally right (even if doing wrong seems advantageous).
Cicero was the founder of humanism which emphasized people and their:
- non-religious philosophical thought (learning about life without relying on religious
- education and moral values.
2. Stick to your principles
Try to be good, even if people around you are not.
- do your duty.
- be grateful - gratitude is the greatest of virtues
It is better to be wrong with good and wise people than right with the bad and ignorant.
But never impose your beliefs or way of life on others.
3. Value your mind and spirit
What you think and believe counts, not:
- what other people think of you.
“The mind is the true self”, he said.
- get the best possible education.
- never stop learning and striving for success.
The seemingly impossible is even achievable.
4. Speak well, wisely and concisely
- make sure you thoroughly understand your subject.
Cicero was a brilliant orator, whose best speech in 63 BC prevented a plot to overthrow the
5. Be wary of war
War is sometimes inevitable, particularly to ensure people’s freedom. But
peace is the ideal.
“A war is never undertaken by the ideal state, except in defence of its honour or its safety”, he said.
6. Use your leisure wisely
- make the most of your life.
- seek “leisure with honour” (i.e. work to enjoy a free, happy, healthy and moral
7. Learn from history and reason
Wisdom comes from:
- applying the good of the past (not repeating the bad).
“The wise are instructed by reason; ordinary minds by experience; the stupid by necessity; and brutes by
instinct”, he said.
8. Stay calm
“In anger nothing right nor judicious can be done”, Cicero said.
9. Be content and value old age
Happiness and contentment come from:
a) flexible aims
Aim to get to the top without hurting anybody, but don’t worry, if you don’t get there.
b) accepting the things you can’t change
Because of their character, reflection and experience, old people have a big impact with little
effort – like a sailor steering a ship with a tiller.
10. Find friends
- make happy times even happier (and bad times more bearable).
- stand up for you in times of trouble.
- never criticize you behind your back.
Key quotes on ethics and careers
Ability without honour is useless.
If you aspire to the highest place, it is no
disgrace to stop at the second, or even the third, place.
Key quotes on law and
The good of the people is the chief law.
Let the punishment match the offence.
Key quote on positive
While there’s life, there’s hope.
Key quotes on learning
Any man can make mistakes but only an idiot persists in his error.
No one can give you better advice than yourself.
Key quote on the past, present and
To be ignorant of the past is forever to be a child.
Key quotes on business
The beginnings of all things are small.
Whatever you do, do with all your might.
Key quote on war
A bad peace is always better than a good war.
Key quote on empowerment and
Freedom is participation in power.
Key quote on public
No one can speak, unless he thoroughly understands his subject.