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Leadership Lessons From a Great One

12-10-2012

During my travels in Europe, I often took note of the influence of Alexander the Great who is a favorite leader of mine. Almost 2400 years after his death, his presence is still felt in modern-day Europe and Asia. In the past few years, a resurgence of interest in Alexander has arisen with the likes of the movie of the same name with Colin Farrell and numerous books. Alexander is an interesting study in the art of leadership. Today’s world leaders could take a few lessons from him.

I offer three of Alexander’s numerous leadership lessons that can serve to educate current sales and general managers.

1) Strategic Planning: When Alexander left Macedonia to conquer Persia, surveyors, engineers, architects, scientists, court officials, and historians accompanied him. Once he left home, Alexander left nothing to chance. He did not have the luxury of waiting for the “Army Corps of Engineers” to arrive a month later and build a bridge for him. He was prepared to take action when a situation arose. Throughout his travels on foot or horse of more than 21,000 miles, Alexander was only lost one time during his journey across Europe and Asia. An amazing fact considering he did not have a GPS in 334-323 BC. Leadership Lesson: Be prepared!

2) Policy of Assimilation: Some historians look at Alexander as the father of mergers and acquisitions. In less than 10 years, Alexander became ruler of half of the known world. He managed to hold his empire together less by force and more by an astute policy of assimilation. Newly acquired Persian territories were not told to “fall into line.” Instead, they were encouraged to retain their local administrative structure and culture. Aristotle taught Alexander to think of the Greeks as the only free men and all others as slaves. Alexander disagreed. He admired the Persians’ organizational skills. He chose not to rule over them but with them. He insisted that his leaders adopt local customs and respect local religious faiths. If those policies were applied to today’s media industry, a new sales or general manager would not fire a large part of the staff because they were not “their people.” The manager would allow the acquired employees a chance to prove themselves. That practice can encourage more immediate productivity and less resentment from the “conquered.” Leadership Lesson: Be empathetic.

 3) Lead From the Front: Alexander was admired by his troops. He rode and walked in front of them. He did not ride behind them in a golden carriage. Alexander ate the same rations and drank the same amount of water as his troops. Alexander knew exactly how far and fast his army could march. He knew their physical and emotional state before battle. Note to management: When was the last time you took a full day and rode with one of your sales reps? Have you ever worked a shift with the receptionist? Don’t forget that the receptionist is the first line of contact for the customers. Leadership Lesson: Be one with the troops.

After his last battle, Alexander gave the following speech which appears on a plaque at the airport in Thessaloniki, Greece. Our world leaders, especially those in the Middle East, could learn from Alexander’s leadership. However, the following oath is relevant for all leaders in any walk of life.

The Oath of Alexander

“It is my wish now that the wars are coming to an end, that you should all be happy in peace.

From now on, let all mortals live as one people, in fellowship, for the good of all. See the whole world as your homeland, with laws common to all, where the best will govern regardless of their race. Unlike the narrow-minded, I make no distinction between Greeks and Barbarians.

The origin of citizens, or the race into which they were born, is of no concern to me. I have only one criterion in which to distinguish them -- virtue. For me, any good foreigner is a Greek, and any bad Greek is worse than a Barbarian.

If disputes ever occur among you, you will not resort to weapons, but will solve them in peace. If need be, I shall arbitrate between you.

See God not as an autocratic despot, but as a common father to all, and thus your conduct will be like the lives of brothers within the same family.

I, on my part, see all of you as equal, whether you are white or dark-skinned. And I should like you not simply to be subjects of my commonwealth, but members of it, partners of it. To the best of my ability, I shall strive to do what I have promised. Keep as a symbol of love this oath, which we have taken tonight with our libations."

The final lesson is to do your best every day to be the kind of leader that inspires the troops that you lead.

Sean Luce is the Head International Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at sean@luceperformancegroup.com



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