Leadership

10.01.12

Obama the Stoic

96524306
The equestrian Statue of emperor of the Roman empire Marcus Aurelius, copy of the original on display at the Capitolini museums, stands on the Piazza del Campidoglio in central Rome on February 9, 2010. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty)

Over at Forbes, Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni use Michael Lewis' Vanity Fair profile of President Obama to argue for his inclusion in the list of leaders (such as Rome's Marcus Aurelius -- pictured above) who practice Stoicism as a means of maintaining sanity in the chaotic world of governance.

Stoicism has an appeal for anyone who faces uncertainty–that is, for all of us. But leaders are especially subject to risk and flux, so it’s not surprising that many of them find a Stoic attitude crucial to their mental health. We mentioned Barack Obama’s Stoic demeanor above–and there’s some more evidence for it in his recent interview with Michael Lewis. “I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he told Lewis. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make…You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.” Whatever your opinion of Obama’s politics, that’s classic Stoicism–trying to draw lines between the essential and the inessential at every level of life.