Spiritual Authority

Of all the Roman Virtues, this might be the most difficult to pin down, but I think it is easier to relate to when you think of it in terms of the value of being a respected, valued person in the community. The "spiritual authority" doesn't mean having the "authority" to act or decide spiritual matters, but the respect and authority you bring into the room by simply being yourself—the virtue part of it is being the sort of person that can accomplish with who you are and without being dishonest.

Once you begin to live a virtuous lifestyle that benefits those around you, and once people can expect you to be fair and industrious, then people will begin to not only come to you for aid but also respect your opinion and want you to lead them, whether in the business world or in personal relationships. Having a sense of duty (which is also covered in the Dutifulness virtue) means you will be respected for your philosophy of doing what you promise, and looking after those who are close to you (or who are simply your responsibility). Being industrious will gain you the admiration of those who depend on your hard work and those who are in position to give promotions or further responsibilities.

Of course, there are those that seem to own the room the moment they enter them. This probably isn't solely due to their virtue or personal character, and much of that will depend on raw charisma or appearance (although you can argue that having an upbeat personality or being confident might be considered virtues). We tend to romanticize those with magnetic personalities as having a sort of "spiritual authority" that draws people to them, when actually most of it is probably a learned skill or acquired genetics.

Many people want to be one of these magnetic personalities themselves, and learning to let yourself shine through when you meet new people can probably help you achieve something like this. It is more important, however, to have a true authority in your personal values and your actions that people will admire and trust over time. When this is the case, then you will have an air of authority based on what others know they can expect from you, and not from first impressions or charismatic force alone; it can turn very badly for you if that impression you give others doesn't match what is inside you in the first place.

This is a virtue you should return to as you improve on your other virtues. Your Spiritual Authority comes when you regularly practice your good virtues with everyone you live and work with, and even when you do change it might take some time to get the word around and have others link you with that sense of authority. Here are some activities that might help:


  • Work on Your Worst Weaknesses: You shouldn't be solely concerned with what others think of you, but working on the most common complaints people have of you is obviously going to get you the most immediate results. Working on all your virtues will help, however, even if those around you aren't very conscious of them. For example, someone might think that you are somehow inherently dishonest, but your tendency to hide the truth might be more closely linked to a lack of courage needed to accept the consequences of being truthful.
  • Become Aware of Your Responsibilities: You may know what you're supposed to do, but if you're not mindful of all your responsibilities it is easy to let them slide. If you have a disorganized brain, it might help you to have a checklist so you can cross off every chore and work-related task as you do them (and make sure you follow through on all the minor details of each job).
  • Stop Blaming Others: When something is your responsibility, don't blame others for failure—even when it really isn't your fault. Be honest about what happened, but fix the problem rather than complain about the circumstances. Focus on what you can do to prevent the failure in the future as a leader instead of depending on the behavior of others you have no control over.
  • Be Honest About Your Commitment: If you really don't want to accept a responsibility, or think you might have a hard time following through, be honest about your feelings rather than making promises or telling others what they want to hear. In most cases you really will be better off in the long run for not making promises you can't keep. Note: some of us have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and will make promises to others we can't keep while honestly believing that we are being honest. Honestly reflect on what you can and are likely to be able to fulfill, and base your promises on this rather than your desire to make others happy with you. If you learn that your promise was unrealistic, then quickly (and humbly) inform those you made that promise to!
  • Help Others Without Being Asked: This is a great way to show you duty, commitment, and industriousness to others. While you know better (being a virtuous person and all) than to expect others to know what your needs are without having informed them, a lot of people really like it when you address their concerns without having to be told to.

Your Record

Whenever you break a promise that you could have feasibly kept—or if you made a promise you couldn't keep—then mark yourself at "fault." If you give someone the strong impression that you are something (or someone) you are clearly not, then mark yourself at fault. If you unnecessarily put off work or "had a lazy day" when you had unfinished responsibilities hanging over your head, then mark yourself at fault. When focusing on this trait, make some personal goals with the suggestions above in mind. If you fail to progress on your goals that day, then mark yourself at fault.


It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.

Benjamin Franklin

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Abraham Lincoln, Renown American President

Golden Mean

Spiritual immaturity
Spiritual authority
Despotism, Tyranny

Recommended Reading

How to Build Your Reputation - The Secrets of Becoming The 'Go To' Professional in a Crowded Marketplace — by Rob Brown

This book is all about gaining professional respect, and how to be the professional people turn to when they need the services you provide.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

The most powerful moral influence is example. Huston Smith