Gaius Julius Caesar is a celebrated Roman general and statesman, the conqueror of Gaul (58–50 BCE), victor in the civil war of 49–45 BCE, and widely regarded as the person responsible from turning the Roman Republic in to the Roman Empire. He is regarded as one of the greatest leaders in history. His name has literally come to be known as King in cultures across the world whether Kaiser in German, Czar in Russian, Qaysar in Urdu or Kaisar in Bahasa Indonesian and dozens of other variations across the globe. So, what can we learn from Julius Caesar’s leadership?
Be proud of your accomplishments
Everyone loves a winner. A successful leader may have courage, vision, and intelligence, but no one is going to follow you if you have not shown you can succeed. Being a leader alone isn’t always enough, after all, who wants to follow a leader who continues to fail time and time again. Throughout his life, Caesar’s actions showed that he had what it takes to win and win again. It is also important to remember that the best leaders don’t just do amazing things but also know how to present a compelling story. After a relatively brief war with Pharnacles II of Pontus, Caesar had to sit down and write out a report to Rome detailing his conquest. Caesar could have gone on and on about his military prowess. Instead, he realized that the simple note would convey the most powerful message. “I came, I saw, I conquered.” The phrase proved so catchy that we still remember it, thousands of years later.
Lead people, don’t tell them where to go
When Julius Caesar led his legions, he did so not with the standard formal jargon that one would expect to hear of a leader speaking of those who are under their command. Instead he treated his soldiers as equals. He would never address his troops as ‘men’ or ‘soldiers’ but instead refer to them as ‘Comrades’. He trained alongside his men with the same physical intensity they did, and he knew all of his centurion’s names.
There are a lot of leaders in the corporate world today who should take note of this. Caesar knew that in doing this he would retain their trust and admiration and gave his troops the mentality that they were fighting alongside Caesar, not just for him. Many in the corporate world even in lower middle management positions refer to their team as “my staff” or “my direct reports” and this creates a perception of you do what I tell you, we are not equal. These same leaders then wonder why their team won’t go above and beyond for them.
Take calculated risks
Julius Caesar is famous for inspiring the phrase, “Crossing the Rubicon.” For those unaware of what this means, Roman generals were not allowed to bring forces past the Rubicon, a small river in northern Italy. To do so was considered a declaration of war on the Roman Republic. Caesar knew this, but that didn’t stop him from steadfastly marching on Rome after he conquered Gaul. Like Caesar, many business leaders would like to pride themselves on swift and decisive action, but often fail to pull the trigger on anything that breaks the rules. This is a key reason why so many businesses are struggling to catch up via digital transformation now, because ultimately people were afraid to take a risk. Sometimes you need to cross the Rubicon in order to achieve greatness.
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