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Do not give in to Evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Spartacus sends this brief essay along:

LEADERSHIP THOUGHTS: Leadership by example during crisis

With the media and government's talk of planetary financial ruin if Congress doesn't pass a $700,000,000,000 financial assistance bill, people are scared. (FYI: that's seven hundred thousand million dollars; try saying that aloud a few times to get a gist of the size of the bill.) Even if your business is not directly affected by the financial industry turmoil, your employees may feel fear, uncertainty, and doubt. In times like this, they will look to leaders like you to see how you react. Below is a short history lesson on leadership in crisis.

Today's leadership quote and thought is longer than the normal, so I ask your patience as you bear with my history lesson below. I posted this on the blog this week but wanted you all to receive it today.

One of the greatest adventures of history comes from the year 401 B.C. The leader of the Persian Empire, Artaxerxes II, faced a challenge for the throne from his brother Cyrus, who marched from Greece into modern-day Iraq with an army that included 10,000 Greek mercenaries. When the Persians and the Greeks met in battle, Cyrus's soldiers prevailed, but Cyrus himself was killed.

Having won the battle but lost their contender for the kingship, the 10,000 Greek soldiers notified Artaxerxes that they would end their invasion, leave Artaxerxes on the throne, and march home if Artaxerxes would provide safe passage for them out of the Empire. Although the Persian King agreed, his agents later betrayed the Greeks by inviting their generals and senior officers to a dinner at which they were captured and, afterward, murdered.

Stranded thousands of miles from home, in a hostile land, with nearly all of their senior leaders lost, and having little in the way of supplies, the 10,000 Greeks quickly elected new officers and, over several months, fought their way from just north of modern-day Baghdad all the way through Kurdistan and Armenia to the shores of the Black Sea. Xenophon, one of the officers, later wrote Anabasis, or The Persian Expedition, in which he narrates the journey into and out of the depths of the Persian Empire.

The quote below is part of a speech by Xenophon shortly after the Greeks learned most of their generals and senior officers had been betrayed. The Greeks gathered the remaining officers and held a council as to what their next course of action should be. Because nobody was clearly in charge, the officers knew their authority rested not on position but upon the validity of their logic and the participation of all in the decision-making process. Xenophon said:

Here is one thing which we all know, namely, that the King and Tissaphernes [the agent of Artaxerxes] have made prisoners of all those of us whom they could and are obviously planning, if they can manage it, to destroy the rest of us. Our part, as I see it, is to do everything possible to prevent our ever coming into the power of the natives -- indeed to see rather that they are in our power. I should like to assure you of this point -- that you who have assembled here in your present numbers are placed in an extraordinarily responsible position. All these solders of ours have their eyes on you, and if they see that you are downhearted they will all become cowards, while if you are yourselves clearly prepared to meet the enemy and if you call on the rest to do their part, you can be sure that they will follow you and try to be like you. It is right, too, I think, that you should show some superiority over them. After all, you are generals, you are officers and captains. In peace time you got more pay and more respect than they did. Now, in war time, you ought to hold yourselves to be braver than the general mass of men, and to make decisions for the rest, and, if necessary, to be the first to do the hard work. I think that first of all you could do a great service to the army by appointing generals and captains as quickly as possible to take the places of those whom we have lost. For where there is not one in control nothing useful or distinguished can ever get done. This is roughly true of all departments of life, and entirely true where soldiering is concerned. Here it is discipline that makes one feel safe, while lack of discipline has destroyed many people before now.

Then I think that, after you have appointed the required number of officers, if you were to call a meeting of the rest of the soldiers and put some heart into them, that would be just what the occasion demands. At the moment I expect you to realize, just as I do, how dispirited they were in handing in their arms for the night and in going on guard. In that condition I cannot see how any use can be made of them, whether by night or by day. But there will be a great rise in their spirits if one can change the way they think, so that instead of having in their heads the one idea of "what is going to happen to me?" they may think "what action am I going to take?"

The above passage contains a striking amount of leadership dimensions, particularly given how short it is. In one short speech, Xenophon addressed the fact that the soldiers are always watching their leaders, that the leaders' mood is contagious, that stressful times are the times when leaders must set the example by doing the hardest jobs themselves, that crisis is the time when leadership is most important, and that leaders must watch their troops to monitor their mood.

Most importantly, he understood that in crisis, the leader must encourage the team to change their thinking from "how will circumstances affect me" to "how will I affect circumstances."

Leadership by example is the simplest way to lead. In time of crisis, we must strike a positive mood for our employees to emulate, set the example by doing everything we ask of others, and above all, when in charge, take charge.

Outnumbered, outresourced, with most leaders lost or missing......

But defiant.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a few words, Xenophon distilled, not only the essence of what the Greeks had to do in the short term to survive and be rescued, but also a template of what "leadership", itself, IS. He was a poet, ELECTED to command by the men. H.A. Covington wrote "The March Up Country" in 1987. The word "Anabasis" TRANSLATES to "the march up country". So, "Concerned American", you are definitely on the right track!

October 2, 2008 at 10:44 PM  

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