The Sacrifice of Leadership

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

A good leader makes difficult decisions sometimes, in order to fulfill a vision. This carries the risk of being evil spoken of. From my experience, I would rather avoid someone who will always do and say what is politically correct. While we must not go through life trying to shake tables as it said these days, we must, when convinced, say things as they are. A wise man said the true test of a man’s character is not adversity, but how he reacts to praises.

Many will disagree and state that all master strategists from Sun Tzu and Nicolo Machiavelli have glorified deception in warfare. Remember however, that one cannot constantly be at war, and the target of warfare is the enemy or opposition. Unless one views everyone as an enemy, then there is no use for deception among family, friends and fellow citizens. Remember whoever uses deception with you is at war with you, thus cannot be a friend.

This may seem like stating the obvious, but it is worth reminding ourselves of, so we do not treat deception with kids gloves. If deception implies something as grave as warfare, no wonder the world is filled with many troubles that would not just go away.

Aye, but to debase myself thus were unworthy of me.” “That,” said Epictetus, “is for you to consider, not for me. You know yourself what you are worth in your own eyes; and at what price you will sell yourself. For men sell themselves at various prices. This was why, when Florus was deliberating whether he should appear at Nero’s shows, taking part in the performance himself, Agrippinus replied, ‘But why do not you appear?’ he answered, ‘Because I do not even consider the question.’ For the man who has once stooped to consider such questions, and to reckon up the value of external things, is not far from forgetting what manner of man he is. Why, what is it that you ask me? Is death preferable, or life? I reply, Life. Pain or pleasure? I reply, Pleasure.” “Well, but if I do not act, I shall lose my head.” “Then go and act! But for my part I will not act.” “Why?” “Because you think yourself but one among the many threads which make up the texture of the doublet. You should aim at being like men in general—just as your thread has no ambition either to be anything distinguished compared with the other threads. But I desire to be the purple—that small and shining part which makes the rest seem fair and beautiful. Why then do you bid me become even as the multitude? Then were I no longer the purple.”

Excerpts from

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus

While we may not be perfect, we must strive towards that. When next the multitudes try to make you feel inferior for refusing to be deceptive, remind yourself that you are purple, you are royal! … and that if the world were full of royalty, it would have been a better place.

Dr Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher