Leadership means getting things done – with Epictetus, the Nigerian Philosopher and Seneca

“… It is a kingly thing, O Cyrus, to do well and to be evil spoken of.” Epictetus

Leadership is about getting things done. Breaking new grounds! It’s not necessarily about positions, even though this too is important to confer mandate and legitimacy (motivational speakers should take note of this)

When breaking new grounds, old establishments must necessarily be shaken up. The old guard will fight back, fiercely, but this must not deter leaders. This rather calls for courage. A consolation to leaders when they are being attacked, is that it’s a validation that indeed they are changing things and making impacts. Change is usually heralded by crisis, and in turn heralds progress.

Source: Wikipedia

Despite the ugliness of war in general, and of civil wars in particular; with civil wars being considered the worst of all warfare, because it is between brothers and sisters; the Nigerian civil war saw some men writing their names in gold for posterity. One of such is Olusegun Obasanjo. That’s leadership! Doing what only you might be able to do at a particular time. Hear the Nigerian Philosopher on this:

We seem to know what is wrong but also seem incapable of doing what is right. If each of us would do his bit as it should be done, caring less about the action or inaction of the other man, our general management performance would improve and increase many times. But invariably, we tend to look at others or even wait for them to measure our own performance rather than make ourselves beacons of light and examples for others to follow no matter the occasional envy, intrigues, backbiting, blackmail and pull-him-down syndrome. The best attitude to pull-him-down syndrome is caution with consistency in performance and belief in the dictum “the hatred of the high is the involuntary homage of the low.” There is no short-cut to growth and development except continuous hard work, industry, commitment and nationalism. We must all roll up our sleeve and pull ourselves up by the straps of our boots.” Excerpt from Olusegun Obasanjo – My Watch

What the Nigerian Philosopher just succinctly described is something I have always bemoaned and it could not have been said better. People in such category who never “do” anything must never be given leadership roles. Such people will take 6 months to do what can be done in 24 hours! What’s worse? If you offer them help, they take offense and resist. It’s irksome, burdensome and tiresome! Sigh!!!

Olusegun Obasanjo – Former Nigerian President and A Philosopher (Picture Source: Wikipedia)

I seek no applause but appreciate understanding.” Olusegun Obasanjo – My Watch

The Ex Nigerian Philosopher President expects understanding; and understandably so, but leaders must know this might never come and console themselves with the opening quote of this piece by Epictetus. It’s painful, but those are parts of the sacrifices of leadership. Simply put, some simply do not have the capacity to understand! See related article in link below:

The Sacrifice of Leadership

I will leave you with an excerpt from Seneca’s letter to Lucilius on this matter:

Letter LXXIII – On Philosophers and Kings

It seems to me erroneous to believe that those who have loyally dedicated themselves to philosophy are stubborn and rebellious, scorners of magistrates or kings or of those who control the administration of public affairs. For, on the contrary, no class of man is so popular with the philosopher as the ruler is; and rightly so, because rulers bestow upon no men a greater privilege than upon those who are allowed to enjoy peace and leisure. Hence, those who are greatly profited, as regards their purpose of right living, by the security of the State, must needs cherish as a father the author of this good; much more so, at any rate, than those restless persons who are always in the public eye, who owe much to the ruler, but also expect much from him, and are never so generously loaded with favours that their cravings, which grow by being supplied, are thoroughly satisfied. And yet he whose thoughts are of benefits to come has forgotten the benefits received; and there is no greater evil in covetousness than its ingratitude. Besides, no man in public life thinks of the many whom he has outstripped; he thinks rather of those by whom he is outstripped. And these men find it less pleasing to see many behind them than annoying to see anyone ahead of them. That is the trouble with every sort of ambition; it does not look back. Nor is it ambition alone that is fickle, but also every sort of craving, because it always begins where it ought to end.

But that other man, upright and pure, who has left the senate and the bar and all affairs of state, that he may retire to nobler affairs, cherishes those who have made it possible for him to do this in security; he is the only person who returns spontaneous thanks to them, the only person who owes them a great debt without their knowledge. Just as a man honours and reveres his teachers, by whose aid he has found release from his early wanderings, so the sage honours these men, also, under whose guardianship he can put his good theories into practice. But you answer: “Other men too are protected by a king’s personal power.” Perfectly true. But just as, out of a number of persons who have profited by the same stretch of calm weather, a man deems that his debt to Neptune is greater if his cargo during that voyage has been more extensive and valuable, and just as the vow is paid with more of a will by the merchant than by the passenger, and just as, from among the merchants themselves, heartier thanks are uttered by the dealer in spices, purple fabrics, and objects worth their weight in gold, than by him who has gathered cheap merchandise that will be nothing but ballast for his ship; similarly, the benefits of this peace, which extends to all, are more deeply appreciated by those who make good use of it”

Excerpt from Seneca – Letters from a Stoic

Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher