Leading With Self-Awareness: Lessons From the Second Roman Emperor


This case guides students to evaluate the role of emotional intelligence in ethical decision-making by considering the life of Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, as documented by the Roman biographer Suetonius. Suetonius chronicled the lives of many Roman emperors, listing both their accomplishments and misdeeds, and his focus on an emperor’s virtues and vices has prompted readers to judge each emperor as either “good” or “bad.” Many have judged Tiberius as a bad emperor, and even as a tyrant. But Suetonius suggests that Tiberius began his rule as a conscientious leader who demonstrated self-awareness and a high level of emotional intelligence. This challenges us to view Tiberius in a different light and to consider the ethics of a bad person being a good leader. Through the evidence presented in Suetonius’s “Life of Tiberius,” this case examines how the second Roman emperor used self-awareness and ethical decision-making to navigate the temptations of his new imperial role and evaluates the steps that Tiberius took in the early years of his reign to protect Rome from his incompatibilities, vices, and eventual abuses of power.

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