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5 Ancient Quotes on Leadership

By Yona Williams    1/23/09

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From tutors to wise poets, the ancient world has known many philosophers and leaders that have helped shape the time periods they lived in. This article offers a few ancient quotes on leadership, as well as facts concerning the men who uttered the words, including Lao Tzu and Plato.

1) 'Know thyself'

Plato (428 BC-347 BC)

This ancient Greek philosopher lived during the Classical time period and served as much more than a philosopher. He was a mathematician and founder of the Academy in Athens. He also wrote philosophical dialogues that are taught in higher institutions all across the world. When it comes to giving birth to Western philosophy, it is Plato that laid down the groundwork with the help of his mentor, Socrates and his pupil, Aristotle. Plato's talent as a writer shined through in his Socratic dialogues. To this day, 35 dialogues and 13 letters are attributed to him, and are often referenced in modern educational circles.

2) 'Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.'

Publilius Syrus (1st century BC)

This Assyrian was originally a slave that was transported to Italy. However, his cleverness, wit, and talent could not be ignored. As a result of gaining the attention of his master, Publilius was freed and then acquired an education from his master, which allowed him to become a great Latin writer of maxims.

3) 'A leader is best when people barely know he exists.'

Lao Tzu (4th century BC)

This ancient Chinese philosopher is known by many different names, including Laozi, Laosi, Lao Tse, Lao-Tzu, Laotze, Lao Zi, and Laocius – which typically translates into 'Old Master.' Lao Tzu became a central figure in regards to Taoism. His existence is somewhat a debate, as Chinese tradition places him as living in the 6th century, where historians believe he was alive during the 4th century BC. Throughout time, he has been seen as one associated with intellectuality and spirituality.

4) 'Treating people with respect will gain one wide acceptance and improve the business.'

Tao Zhu Gong (500BC)

Tao Zhu Gong served as an assistant to the Emperor of Yue. He was known for creating various business principles, such as "Haggling over every ounce in purchasing may not reduce one's cost of capital" and "Comradeship and trust will emerge naturally when discipline and high standards are enforced."

5) 'To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind.'

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 or 5 BC - 65 AD)

Sometimes referred to as Seneca or Seneca the Younger, Lucius Annaeus Seneca became a well-known Roman Stoic tragedian and philosopher. He additionally offered his services to Nero as a counselor and tutor – the man who is said to have fiddled while Rome burned. He also held positions in state and dabbled in drama and humor in his writing. His work is often linked to the Silver Age of Latin literature.





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