What Aristotle taught me about leadership

Updated: Apr 21


1. Nurture the virtues i.e. develop self-awareness and make decisions (choices) to act in alignment with your values.

2. Develop yourself to be able to excel in various types of situations over extended periods of time. I.e. seek to understand and build resilience.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence and quality are not acts, but habits”. (Aristotle)

Aristotle (382 BC – 322 BC) was a polymath who made fundamental contributions to diverse fields of study, including logic, rhetoric, ethics, physics, story, poetry, government, metaphysics, geology, zoology and philosophy.

According to Aristotle, to live well people should behave according to virtues that allow them to excel in many types of situations across time.

Each virtue relates to a vice, which can either exist in deficiency or excess. He believed that we should strive to live a life of moderation, nurturing the virtues within ourselves and avoiding the vices on either extreme.

Below are some examples of situations where the leader’s choice of behaviour indicates whether they are acting virtuously or not.

You can use the table to take a pulse check on your level of leadership virtuosity by highlighting your most common reactive leadership behaviour to each of the 9 listed situations.

1. DANGER

Cowardice - Vice of Deficiency

Courage - Virtue

Foolhardiness -Virtue of Excess

2. SATISFACTION OF APPETITES

Inhibition - Vice of Deficiency

Temperance - Virtue

Overindulgence - Virtue of Excess

3. GIVING GIFTS

Miserliness - Vice of Deficiency

Generosity - Virtue

Extravagance - Virtue of Excess

4. PURSUIT OF GOALS

Aimlessness - Vice of Deficiency

Ambition - Virtue

Ruthless drive - Virtue of Excess

5. SELF APPRAISAL

Feelings of inferiority - Vice of Deficiency

Pride - Virtue

Vanity -Virtue of Excess

6. RESPONSE TO INSULTS

Apathy - Vice of Deficiency

Patience - Virtue

Irascibility - Virtue of Excess

7. SOCIAL CONDUCT

Rudeness - Vice of Deficiency

Friendliness - Virtue

Submissive - Virtue of Excess

8. AWARENESS OF ONE’S FLAWS

Shamelessness - Vice of Deficiency

Modesty - Virtue

Shyness - Virtue of Excess

9. CONVERSATION

Boorishness - Vice of Deficiency

Wittiness - Virtue

Buffoonery - Virtue of Excess

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. (Aristotle)


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People • Performance • Productivity