Learn from Plato: The Nature of Leadership

The Greeks gave us democracy. So we should stop and reflect from time to time on what they knew about effective leadership.


In the latest installment of Big Think Edge, philosopher Rebecca Goldstein teaches you how to be a good leader by following the teachings of Plato.

Good Leadership

“For Plato, the greatest challenge in being a good leader is to keep one’s own self-interest in check or to merge your own self-interest with the interests of the many,” says Goldstein.

To be a good leader, you don’t have to ignore your own self-interests; but you do have to make sure that your ego is in check and that you put the interests of those you’re leading above your own.

Qualities of a Good Leader

Leadership requires ambition—wanting to leave a mark on the world. An unchecked ego will get in the way and could lead to self-destruction. Good leaders have a purpose and an open mind which leaves them receptive to new ideas. Plato stressed these characteristics in “The Republic.”

The Importance of Self-knowledge

It may be difficult for the ambitious to pursue self-knowledge and confront their weaknesses. Plato was sympathetic to them in this regard but was adamant that they seek inner wisdom--the greatest source of true leadership.

For more on Plato’s thoughts on leadership and how to apply his teachings, subscribe for a 14 day trial to Big Think Edge and watch this clip from Goldstein’s exclusive workshop:

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
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(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
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  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.