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How Stoicism Can Improve Your Leadership Skills

How Stoicism Can Improve Your Leadership Skills

By Syed Balkhi, the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site that helps small businesses start their websites.
As human beings, we have to work to be rational and think clearly. We’re often contending with our “lizard brains” that generate powerful emotions that are typically more negative than not. 
For leaders, it is extremely useful to use mental models to make better decisions and tap into our rational sides.
Stoicism is a way of thinking that helps a leader avoid irrational decision making. When practiced daily, it can also help you feel less stressed and more productive. We can apply the principles of stoicism to leadership practices and, as a result, make better decisions faster.

Let’s start by looking at what stoicism is in a brief way.
About Stoicism

The word stoic means a person who meets difficulties in life with patience and acceptance. It can also be used as a noun; a person who practices this philosophy is also called a stoic. 

This way of living is attributed to the teachings of an ancient philosopher called Zeno from Athens in the third century B.C. The main principles in this philosophy are to accept what the present moment gives to us, whether it’s misfortune or good news, and to avoid placing extreme importance on conditions like safety and wealth at all times in order to experience happiness.

From this brief description, it’s common to want to dismiss stoicism as a way of thinking and living. However, practicing this way of thinking is not about dismissing goals and desires altogether. We can use stoicism to help us in all areas of life and especially in leadership. 
Applying Stoicism To Leadership
Today, stoicism is a well-practiced and known mental model that many people embrace. There are entire blogs dedicated to its understanding and application. And even well-known personalities like Bill Gates and many others are said to leverage stoicism. Let’s look at two specific ways I think stoicism has a lot to offer leaders.
• Overcoming sunk cost fallacy.
Experiencing negative setbacks is common in the running of a business. Sometimes you make the wrong decision, someone leaves a bad review or you lose an important client.
For many people, negative turns in business have them questioning the point of their efforts. If you’ve spent a year on a marketing campaign and only see meager results, has your effort gone to waste?
Should you continue working on the campaign for another six months even when it’s not showing results? The answer is probably no. If something has not worked for a while, then it’s time to scrap it or rework it.
But when you’re devastated by negative results and feeling the pressure of sunk cost fallacy, a stoic approach helps. Accepting that your experiments and best efforts did not give you a positive result will help you let go of your campaign sooner.
You can start with a clean slate and begin a new campaign with a different orientation.
• Focusing on the effort and not the outcome.
We place high expectations on the outcome of a campaign or a new product launch. This can be motivating and gives people direction, but when the pressure builds, it can also be paralyzing.
Many people struggle to make decisions fast or to see through a job because they’re worried about whether the outcome works in their favor. 
Having a stoic mindset where you’re willing to face disaster or mediocre results with equanimity can actually make you a better leader. Because you’re more comfortable with the outcome that turns out, you’ll experience less stress during the process of pushing a new product out or running a massive ad campaign.
A stoic mindset helps you give your best to the work you’re doing without letting the end goal overwhelm you.
Stoicism offers a way of thinking that has practical benefits for leaders and business owners.
I’ve outlined two specific ways it can help to build a stoic mindset. But it’s worth noting that understanding stoicism will generally help you in other ways. You’ll experience less stress overall, which leads to more creative thinking. 
Stoicism is a practical mental model that you can lean on to think clearly and make good decisions for your business. Reading more about it through books and blogs will help you learn all about it and apply it effectively, too.