The relevance of ancient History to contemporary Leadership
|I'm a staunch believer in the power of History. To me, as it would be for like-minded people, History is as much about future as it is about the past.
Some say that the past shapes the future. They wouldn't be too far away from the truth.
Look around you. Every object, every human , every animal has a strain of 'History'.
We owe as much to to the inventors of the humble bullock-cart as we owe to the inventors of the automobile.
We owe as much to the inventors of the 'Abacus' as we owe to the inventors of the computer.
Rome wasn't built in a day for sure.
Lesson # 1: To create History, persevere.
I'm especially fascinated by the poignant fabled life stories of emperors. Men of honor, courage, humility, chivalry, and single-willed determination who fought to overcome the hurdles in their path to glory. For these valorous men, failure was not an option. The ignominy of a defeat would sting them harder than a hundred bees.
'Conquer' , not 'Concede'!
'Sent by above', these emperors were seen as saviors and mercenaries by those who were ruled by them. They were the 'Chosen ones'.
Lesson # 2: Be the ruler, or be prepared to be ruled!
From nomadic tribes to the 'Conquestadors', From Genghiz Khan to 'Alexander'; From 'Ottoman' to 'Napolean', History is replete with stories of men and women who have shaped the world as we know it today.
Of course, the crown did not rest on the head of the man whose hands were not stained with blood. To please their own people, they would have to slay and wipe out someone else's. However, that is where our judgment should step in. What is right and what is wrong would be a very individualistic question to answer.
So what makes these men and women stand out in the annals of History? Why does the world remember them today?
This is where History comes to the fore once again. These men knew their History well and hence were better able to challenge the future. The past failures made them stronger.
It would be fool-hardy for one to ignore the mistakes committed by these rulers and to only focus on their right moves. It is imperative to gather and understand their successful plans of action and also their unsuccessful ventures. Failure was a stepping stone to success for these men. They had the ability to convert adversity into strength. Highly volatile as it is, today's business scenario necessitates the use of SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis, in my view, can make or break a firm or an individual. This concept is not new. The methods have evolved, but the concept has not. The successful rulers would make SWOT analysis of their own.
Lesson # 3: Know your SWOT
The key to winning any battle would be an extensive understanding of two types of enemies - The enemy outside, and the enemy within. History would tell us that it is as difficult or more, perhaps, to deal with the enemy within than the enemy outside. The lives of , just to quote a few, Roman emperors, the Moghuls, The Rajas, would bear testimony to my statement.
Some were able to conquer the enemy within and succeeded. Some were unable to douse the flames of jealousy, hatred, conspiracy and treachery, and fell victim to their perpetrators.
Lesson # 4: Be prudent in identifying your allies and more importantly, your foes.
Where ordinary mortals would surrender to 'destiny', these men of courage would not give up. They were the ones to pick up the baton of 'hope' - hope of prosperity, hope of riches,hope of peace, hope of civilian sanity. The Mayan rulers were believed to be the descendants of Mayan Gods. The Pharaohs of Egypt were believed to be descendants of God Horus. However, it would be fair to assume that these men and women 'created' opportunities. Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore, was a soldier who did not wait for the Rajas to hand over the reins. He seized the moment.
Wu Hou, china's only female ruler, stepped into the Palace of T'ai Tsung at the age of 13 in the year 638 AD as a minor servant. She rose through the political upheavals to become a global force.
It was clear to these men and women that there would be someone else waiting to take over.
Lesson # 5: Initiate, take ownership. If you don't, someone else will.
The Athenians invested the profits from a newly discovered Silver mine into preparing for war against the Persians. Romans, ravaged by Hannibal's army for over a dozen years, concentrated the army in cutting supplies for Hannibal, trying to make his force weaker.
Tippu Sultan, the erstwhile ruler of Mysore, built his fort at Seringapatam, on an Island surrounded by the flowing water of river Cauvery. Thus, he made the lives of conquering enemies difficult as they had to contend with the river.
Lesson # 6: To win, you need to plan effectively. Brilliant execution cannot make up for faulty planning.
The success of these rulers depended, apart from their self, on the ministers, commanders, soldiers and the ilk. The defense forces invariably grew in sync with their success and became more complex to manage. This necessitated the need for evolving mechanisms that could deal with the changing military environment.
Forces became more streamlined, more specialized.
It was around 3rd millennium BC that military specialization came into being.
Lesson # 7: The right men + right places + right job = amazing formula for success.
History is precious. Clear the sands of time that cover up the books of History - You will find get a better picture of tomorrow!
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