Alexander III of Macedon more commonly known as Alexander the Great was a King of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through western Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of 30, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to north-western India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders. So, what can we learn from his leadership?
Be a role model
One of Alexander’s core beliefs was that a leader should always set an example for those around them. He always led his troops from the front into battle, but he also made a point to experience the same hardship as they did. If some of his troops had to go without food or drink, he would go without food or drink. If his men had to walk due to their horses becoming tired or injured, Alexander would get off his horse and walk with them.
This is a principle that should be very pertinent in modern times. The focus on shareholder value over everything else has left many employees around the world feeling disenfranchised. They know that their leader would often happily let them go hungry as long as the shareholders get to eat. Likewise, there are plenty of leaders who have an “open door” policy, but in this example, why would there be a door in the first place?
A winning strategy doesn’t require huge resources
I can never recall a leader telling me that they had enough people to meet the required objectives. So often the solution in the corporate world is to hire more people, as they do not have enough. Alexander built his empire with an army that at most would have had 40,000 men and was consistently fighting opponents who could call on more resources than he had. The Persians alone were said to be able to call on more than 1 million men. He had to come up with a winning strategy every time as he could not simply rely on having more men to fight for him. He used various terrain, tactics, mobility, and weaponry to overwhelm his considerably larger opponents.
Reward your people
Alexander the Great went out of his way to ensure his men enjoyed the spoils of war. They won great riches as a result of his victories, he did not keep everything for himself or the ruling elite. This ensured that his men wanted to follow him to conquer new territories time and time again. This is something many leaders should take note of. Rewarding team members both financially and otherwise is a critical to ensure ongoing support. Quite simply, why would those serving under them continue to give their all if they get nothing in return? Conversely, if they have a leader who looks after them, why would they go anywhere else?
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