Profiting with Honor: Cicero's Vision of Leadership

33 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2007

Date Written: October 2007


This paper attempts to uncover the relevance of Cicero's thought to present-day management through an analysis of his last philosophical work, On Duties. Applying a methodology grounded in Socratic skepticism, Cicero synthesizes the Stoics and Aristotle to create his own moral theory. From this theory, we derive a Ciceronian set of recommended traits that make up the model business leader.

Central to this model is the recognition that there are two lodestars in life, the beneficial and the honorable. The first directs each of us to attend to our personal happiness, the second to our moral worth. In Cicero's view, the life of leading sizable associations is what best satisfies this dual imperative.

The honor of a business leader is secured by the practice of four virtues: wisdom, justice, greatness of spirit, and seemliness. A leader properly seeks their own benefit by recognizing that success comes from the relationships they establish and that they are more apt to cultivate these by being virtuous.

Cicero is not so naive as to fail to see that the beneficial and the honorable may come into tension, noting various examples from business to illustrate the dilemma. But he insists a businessperson can be ethical and prosper at the same time once they comprehend the social fellowship of humanity.

Keywords: business ethics, leadership, cicero, aristotle, stoics, happiness, ancients, virtue

JEL Classification: B10, B11, B30, B31, M1, M13, M14

Suggested Citation

Bragues, George, Profiting with Honor: Cicero's Vision of Leadership (October 2007). Available at SSRN: or

George Bragues (Contact Author)

University of Guelph-Humber ( email )

207 Humber College Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario M9W 5L7
416-798-1331, Ext. 6049 (Phone)
416-798-3293 (Fax)

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