Antoninus, Marcus, and you…

Marcus Annius Verus was born in A.D. 121. His dad died while he really young. He loved boxing, wrestling, and running. In 137, Marcus was adopted by the childless senator Antoninus (heir to the throne) and took on the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. One year later, Antoninus assumed the throne. Leadership was thrust upon him…

Marcus underwent serious coaching/training/building as the Roman Empire would one day be his to run. In fact, that day arrived on August 31, 161 when his adopted father, Antoninus, died. We know Marcus would go on to represent the high water mark for philosopher/King. Marcus was a stud leader for sure. I’m studying him at the moment and enjoying the manuscript he wrote titled Meditations. In all likelihood, the book he wrote was never titled by him. You see, Marcus never intended the work to become public. He simply wrote to remind himself of the principles he believed and hoped to live. The book is highly repetitive and I like it. Book one is titled “Debts and Lessons.” In this book, Marcus begins by thanking his family, friends, teachers, and teammates for what they taught him. His longest (by far) learning is addressed to his adopted father. Here’s a taste…

“Compassion. Unwavering adherence to decisions, once he’d reached them. Indifference to superficial honors. Hard work. Persistence. Listening to anyone who could contribute to the public good. His altruism. Not expecting his friends to keep him entertained at dinner or to travel with him. His searching questions at meetings. His restrictions on acclamations – and all attempts to flatter him. His constant devotion to the empire’s needs. His stewardship of the treasury. His willingness to take responsibility  – and blame – for both. The way he handled the material comforts that fortune had supplied him in such abundance – without arrogance and without apology. If they were there, he took advantage of them. If not, he didn’t miss them. Qualified to govern both himself and them. His ability to feel at ease with people – and put them at their ease, without being pushy.

This, in particular: his willingness to yield the floor to experts – in oratory, law, psychology, whatever – and to support them energetically, so that each of them could fulfill his potential. That he respected tradition without needing to constantly congratulate himself for safeguarding our traditional values. The way he could have one of his migraines and then go right back to what he was doing – fresh and at the top of his game. That he had so few secrets – only state secrets, in fact, and not all that many of those.

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. You could have said of him (as they say of Socrates) that he knew how to enjoy and abstain from things that most people find it hard to abstain from and all to easy to enjoy. Strength, perseverance, self control in both areas: the mark of a soul in readiness – indomitable.”

Not bad, adopted dad – not bad. Thanks for the reminder, Marcus. And, reader, I hope you find a nugget to nudge you toward your leadership potential. Good…

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