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Harnessing the Virtue of Temperance for Professional Success

Harnessing the Virtue of Temperance for Professional Success

executive coaches

Many leaders practice key virtues and tenets, many of which have been passed down from philosophers of antiquity to modern times. The virtue of temperance often doesn’t get as much attention as it should; perhaps it comes across as ‘boring’ in a hedonistic world of indulgence, instead opting for temperance and self-control.

Below are some tips on what temperance is in the professional world and how to apply it to become a great leader and to unlock your full emotional intelligence (EQ).

Understanding Temperance

A hot blade forged of steel is not simply quenched and put into battle, not now, not in centuries past. From mediaeval Japan to the Middle Ages in Europe, the key to working a hot blade and unlocking the true durability and strength of the steel was to temper it in a process known as annealing. The repetitive ‘folding’ of the steel and hammering out imperfections increasingly strengthened the chemical attributes of the steel to achieve remarkably powerful and majestic weapons.

Many epochs ago, Aristotle listed temperance as one of his cardinal virtues, describing it as self-control that enables a successfully balanced life without moving towards excess.

A few centuries ago, American founding father Benjamin Franklin equally listed temperance amongst his 13 virtues. Taken literally, he described it as: “Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation.” Nevertheless, we can still interpret the eating and drinking part to reflect more behavioural aspects today in the professional workplace.

Temperance in the Professional Workplace

Temperance reflects self-control. Rather than impulsively behaving or acting on feelings or emotions that could put a relationship or career at risk, temperance pushes one to asking some vital questions before taking action:

  • What is your temperament and how does it relate to your approach to workplace challenges?
  • Is it important to be self-aware regarding your natural impulses? If so, why?
  • Have you got an opportunity to demonstrate more temperance given the challenges facing you or your organisation?
  • What can you do today that can improve your awareness and temperance?

This may all seem quite general, and it is so by intent. Every workplace has its own unique and dynamic challenges, so it would be impossible to list out each and every one individually. Nevertheless, try to zoom out and look at the bigger picture to start actualising answers to these questions.

Temperance Leads to Humility

One quality that is unfortunately in short supply these days, it would seem, is humility. Knowing that you are not always right, that you have and will err in your ways, your beliefs, opinions, all contribute to fostering humility. It can be mistaken for weakness, which is why many avoid humility altogether in the workplace, often to their own detriment.

By improving your sense of temperance and centering yourself emotionally at work, you open the door to developing greater humility. Rather than allowing your emotions guide your actions, which can be catastrophic, you instead permit cool-headed rationality to come forward.

Naturally, learning temperance isn’t like learning how to use Excel or how to basketweave. It can take a lifetime to truly develop, but there are methods of tapping into your EQ and putting you down a path of solid leadership including the use of temperance.


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