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Cicero - Philosophy, Success and LeadershipCicero - 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:Cicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership

  • achieve “the highest good”. 
  • ask “who benefits?”
  • 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 dogma).
  • education and moral values


2. Stick to your principles

Try to be good, even if people around you are not.

  • do your dutyCicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership
  • be honest
  • repay kindness
  • respect others. 
  • find truth.
  • 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.

 Cicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership

3. Value your mind and spirit

What you think and believe counts, not:

  • what you look like, or
  • 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.

Cicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership 

4. Speak well, wisely and concisely

  • be concise.
  • make sure you thoroughly understand your subject.

Cicero was a brilliant orator, whose best speech in 63 BC prevented a plot to overthrow the government.


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.


Cicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership

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 life).



7. Learn from history and reason

Wisdom comes from:

  • intellectual reasoning
  • 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.

 Cicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership

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 

(like ageing).

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.


Cicero - Philosophy, Success and Leadership

10. Find friends

True 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 justice

The good of the people is the chief law.

Let the punishment match the offence.


Key quote on positive thinking

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 future

To be ignorant of the past is forever to be a child.


Key quotes on business success

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

Freedom is participation in power.


Key quote on public speaking

No one can speak, unless he thoroughly understands his subject.

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