Is it important to serve in order to lead? with Marcus Aurelius


Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and stoic philosopher kept a diary during his lifetime, that was later turned into a book titled, Meditations. The philosopher’s notes to himself are self-motivating on many tones, and speaks to the soul and mind.

As an emperor his references, and the perception visible through his writing show an undeniable manner of how leadership should be, and what behaviours a leader must absorb. It shows self-discipline as important as a bone in the human body. And the various conversations paint a picture that show how Marcus Aurelius believes serving is a large part of leading. For him clarity of the mind, along with the renunciation of desires of ego and fame, allow one to find oneself. A lot starts with serving oneself with the right material of thought and meditation.

He says…

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

– But it’s nicer in here…

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

– But we have to sleep sometime…

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that – as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts. 

Along with understanding our own duties to serve, he explains how everyone has many preset characteristics, that we may/may not appreciate but fate has bound us to them, and we must with our ability to serve fate, do what is right through our service. One could ask, that ‘why must I serve?’, ‘why can’t I employ people to do the hard labour and I sit here to earn, and enjoy?’. If you happen to be in such a privileged place, it would be no wrong having employees, but if you do not invest your own time for too long, the opportunity and success will walk away. Success is not like a cactus, that will grow without water or attention. It is more like a banyan tree; willing to give shade, but demands water, care, and time to grow tall and strong.

Socrates once said that the world would not be a happy place unless kings became philosophers, or philosophers became kings – and Marcus Aurelius is the best example of a ‘philosopher king’ and famously known for his beautiful mind.

One thought on “Is it important to serve in order to lead? with Marcus Aurelius

  1. Today’s corporate culture should know this thing that there is a difference between a Leader and a Manager .

    We should strive for developing Leadership qualities instead for managerial !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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