Tech Leadership: 7 Thoughts on Running Your Start-Up Like A Roman Emperor

By November 25, 2011

He never exhibited rudeness, lost control of himself, or turned violent. No one ever saw him sweat. Everything was to be approached logically and with due consideration in a calm and orderly fashion, but decisively, and with no loose ends.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Self-efficacy, more than any other trait, defines a great leader. Those who possess self-efficacy are confident in their abilities to succeed in any situation. At the same time, they openly acknowledge their shortcomings, knowing when to yield the floor to experts.

Acknowledgement of one’s own failures is an unnatural process. Successful leadership requires several other equally unnatural processes, including the restraint of emotion, indifference to praise, and unfailing optimism.

Meditations, written by Marcus Aurelius some 1800 years ago, continues to shape the thoughts of leaders around the globe to this day. Perhaps the single greatest piece of advice Aurelius gives us is to slow down when faced with a difficult decision, and to imagine how someone we respect might approach the dilemma. By stepping away from the situation and analyzing it objectively in this way, we are able to make decisions governed by reason, and not emotion.

Inspired by Meditations, these seven thoughts will help you run your start-up in the spirit of Rome’s greatest emperor.


Tolerate those who question your views. “The truth never harmed anyone — what harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”


Make so no one ever has to speculate about your attitude. Additionally, eliminate all that is not essential in your communications — at every moment, ask yourself, “Is this necessary?”


Don’t be satisfied with getting the gist of it — pay discreet attention to minor details. Practice really hearing what people say, and don’t break off the discussion prematurely. “Enter others minds and let them enter yours.”


Don’t talk about what limits you. Instead, focus on how you can move forward with the limitations in mind. “View each setback as an opportunity — the situation nature provides you to learn, to grow, and to become what you need to be.”


Be tolerant with others, and strict with yourself. “When faced with people’s bad behavior, turn around and ask when you have acted like that.” Always remember how much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them.


“Don’t feel exasperated, defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. Get back up when you fail. Celebrate behaving like a human — however imperfectly — and fully embrace the pursuit you’ve embarked on.”


“Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do. Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you. Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” Choose what’s right, and move forward confidently.

Image Credit: FrenziedLorol