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Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny. – Aristotle

Admittedly, I was a huge fan of Greek & Roman mythology growing up.  So in exploring various authors during college, there was a natural inclination towards various philosophers from roughly the same era … Aristotle being one of them. And even if you never directly studied his works, chances are you are familiar with them. For example …

  • the more you know, the more you don’t know
  • the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
  • to be a good leader you must be a good follower.

But it is in the area of purpose and character where Aristotle has perhaps had the most profound influence on me as it pertains to leadership.

Purpose

Several years ago I attended a Leadership Summit where the concept of thriving was described as the intersection between your passion, your skills, and your point of purpose/impact. I believe this applies from both a personal perspective as well as to the products/solutions you own as a product management leader.

For me personally, there are theological/biblical connotations to this concept that resonate deeply.  But I was also reminded recently that there are applications from a philosophical perspective because it was Aristotle who said “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.”

Character

When I went through the exercise of tracing my family tree many years ago, one of the things I uncovered was our family crest, and on that crest was a simple Latin expression … Sola Virtus Invica … which translates to Virtue (or character) alone is invincible.

Aristotle’s teachings had a direct influence on virtue ethics, which emphasizes the role of one’s character and the virtues that one’s character embodies for determining or evaluating ethical behavior.  I read a book not too long ago titled Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership, and in every example the prevailing theme was derailment due to a failure of character. 

Virtue alone is invincible, meaning it cannot be taken from you.  But it can be freely thrown away.

Leadership

So what led me down this path this morning was this article on LinkedIn – Aristotle: 8 Top Leadership Traits for Today.  Some great context, some of which echoes my thoughts above, but some that expands on it.  I encourage you to explore on your own.

Closing thought … with the general theme of this post being virtue/character and purpose … take a look at the meaning behind Aristotle’s name … From the Greek name Αριστοτελης (Aristoteles) which meant “the best purpose”, derived from αριστος (aristos) “best, excellence” and τελος (telos)”purpose, aim”.

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