Are Leaders Born or Are They Made?: The Case of Alexander the Great

Views: 886
Ratings: (0)

This engaging study of the life of Alexander the Great, the charismatic leader who created an empire that spanned most of the ancient world, provides an in-depth look at the psychodynamics of leadership that will be of use to contemporary leaders in business and politics, and to consulting and training organisations.In the first part of the book, the authors weave the fascinating tale of Alexander's life, whilst highlighting his considerable leadership skills. They then analyse Alexander's personality and behaviour from a clinical perspective to demonstrate the psychological forces that shaped those leadership qualities. They look at the key facets of Alexander's leadership technique in detail, as a practical demonstration of effective leadership, an conclude by cataloguing Alexander's strengths and, just as importantly, his weaknesses for the vital lessons in leadership.This volume provokes both introspection and inspiration in the minds of its readers. It is vital reading for all managers and management consultants, MBA students, and all concerned with effective leadership.'In analysing Alexander's personality and behaviour, this book takes a clinical perspective. It relies on concepts of the developmental psychology, family systems theory, cognitive theory, dynamic psychiatry, psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis to understand his behaviour and actions. Exploring themes that highlight psychological dimensions of Alexander's leadership style, these pages draw observations about the lessons of leadership that can be learned from his behaviour.'- From the Introduction

List price: $20.99

Your Price: $16.79

You Save: 20%

 

11 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Content

ePub

 

CHAPTER ONE Setting the stage

ePub

Alexander the Great, one of the greatest generals of all time and one of the most powerful personalities of antiquity, was born in 356 BC in Pella, Macedonia (Baynham, 1998; Bosworth, 1988; Bury & Meiggs, 1983; Freeman, 1999; Green, 1991; Hammond, 1998; Hogarth, 1977; Lamb, 1945; Stewart, 1993). Although the Macedonians, whose territory occupied the area around present-day Thessaloniki in northern Greece, considered themselves part of the Greek cultural sphere, many Greeks regarded them with contempt. In the eyes of the Greeks, the Macedonians were a mere offshoot of the original stock. They spoke a Greek dialect, to be sure, but they were led by a backward monarchy and their nobles (little more than barbarians) pursued the manly pleasures of hunting, drinking, frolicking, and casual fornication, the latter quite indiscriminately with both men and women.

Parental disharmony

In 359 BC, King Perdiccas III, then ruler of Macedonia, died in battle. His infant son, Amyntas, was expected to succeed him, with Perdiccas’s brother Philip (Alexander the Great’s father) as his regent. Philip, however, usurped his nephew’s throne, crowning himself King Philip II. With that bold step he set the stage for the meteoric rise of his country’s fortunes and its entry on to the world stage (Cawkwell, 1981).

 

CHAPTER TWO Creating a war machine

ePub

Until the fifth century BC Greek warfare had been a matter of amateur civilian armies going on summer campaigns. Soldiering had been a part-time occupation, something men would do during the off-season. At the start of the harvest the men would return to their farms. This arrangement was gradually changing, however.

Philip as military innovator

In Philip’s fourth century BC, warfare was becoming more and more the business of specialist professional mercenaries. Poverty drove many men from all parts of Greece to join the military, since hiring oneself out as a soldier was a good way of making a living in a poor country (especially if one had slaves who could cultivate the land). The members of the king’s own regiment—an elite corps whose members were required to hold citizenship as Macedonians—were called the king’s “Companions”. From these soldiers, drawn from the noble families in Macedonia, Philip would select his commanders and administrators. These noblemen were divided into two categories—Cavalry Companions and Infantry Companions—each with their own fighting speciality.

 

CHAPTER THREE Family turmoil

ePub

The family was irreparably split apart when Philip took a girl younger than Alexander for his new wife. This girl, pregnant with a child by Philip, divided the royal house into two bitterly hostile camps because of her family connections. Her family was of pure Macedonian lineage, and her uncle, Attalus, was one of the Companions of the king. By taking a wife from this family, Philip had endangered the succession plans of Olympias and Alexander. Because the new wife was of traditional Macedonian nobility (unlike Alexander’s mother, who came from Epirus), Olympias and Alexander were deeply threatened by his father siring a child with purer Macedonian blood than Alexander’s own. Compounding the problem for Olympias, Philip renamed his new wife Eurydice, after his beloved mother, a woman who had been held in highest honour. That was a sure sign of the demotion of the queen-mother-to-be. Olympias and Alexander must have felt that the faction that surrounded Attalus undermined their position, resulting in an atmosphere of insecurity and distrust at the Macedonian court.

 

CHAPTER FOUR A strategic genius

ePub

Alexander, like his father, was obsessed by the idea of leading an expedition into Asia. The “party line” reason that he handed out for popular consumption was that the campaign was necessary to redress the insult of the Persian invasion by the great king Xerxes 150 years earlier; the Greek cities of Asia Minor needed to be liberated. But there were other reasons, less worthy and therefore less touted. For example, Alexander badly needed the Persian wealth to maintain the costly army built up by his father. In spite of the rich mineral resources of Macedonia, Alexander incurred great debts maintaining the formidable army. (Alexander, like Philip, was a lavish spender, especially when it came to military might, and the financial strain on the Macedonian kingdom had been tremendous.) In addition, a less rational reason for the expedition was that Alexander wanted not only to complete, but particularly to surpass, what his father had started.

Alexander started his march with an allied Greek army that proved to be one of the most impressive in history. Initially, the number of troops was unimpressive in comparison with the forces of the Persian king. The numbers increased, however, as Alexander carried out his remarkable campaign. As he continued his march into Asia, his troops were augmented mightily, primarily due to the recruitment of mercenaries from Greece and elsewhere who joined him as the campaign progressed. (Later, after his conquest of Persia, he would also train 30,000 young Persians for three years in Macedonian ways of war. These Persians would be integrated into Macedonian units, and eventually the army in Asia would consist predominantly of Persian troops.)

 

CHAPTER FIVE Administering an empire

ePub

The Persians had made it a habit to absorb, after conquest, the individual countries they had vanquished, leaving their internal structures largely intact. The old institutions were coordinated in the name of the king by a Persian satrap on whose behalf taxes were collected, and the local bureaucrats who had been running those institutions were retained, maximizing Persian administrative efficiency. It was the custom of the Great Kings to appoint members of their family and entourage as satraps. The reigning king was thus informed of the happenings in his empire by his agents, known as the “king’s eyes”.

Alexander admired the Persian way of administering an empire, as reflected in what he saw in his travels and what he read of the administration of Cyrus the Great. He also learned a lot about governance from the contributions of Aristotle. He knew that to understand and, when necessary, manipulate another society, he needed to identify the true centres of power, as well as their linkages, loyalties, and pressure points. He recognized that tribal and religious leaders would usually hold the main positions of power, and he saw the advantages of using the experience of these constituencies by supporting them. Furthermore, he knew that treating the subjugated people fairly would be the easiest method to get their support in return—support that he sorely needed, since he had only a small number of Macedonian citizen troops with him that could be used for controlling the empire.

 

CHAPTER SIX Striving for the "Endless Ocean"

ePub

Alexander’s empire now stretched from the Balkans down to Nubia and across the Punjab. But having conquered part of India was still not enough for the adventurous Alexander. He wanted to reach the “Endless Ocean”, that vast expanse of water that the Greeks believed formed the edge of the known world. To go to the actual boundary of the world (which was thought to lie beyond India) was an irresistible challenge. Alexander had derived his geographical understanding from the teachings of Aristotle, who thought that India was a small peninsula running into a vast sea. As Alexander saw it, he could push on to the Ganges River and continue to the shores of the Endless Ocean. He was determined to march to the very ends of the earth. Once he succeeded in finalizing this conquest, the kingdom of Asia would be bounded by desert and by the waters of the great sea—a practical result, given that the gained territories, with their difficult borders, would be more easily defended against enemies. But apart from this pragmatic reason for further conquest, Alexander’s love of adventure, his thirst for knowledge, and his curiosity for the unknown drove him ever forward.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN The management of meaning

ePub

An essential part of effective leadership is the management of meaning. Effective leaders speak to the collective imagination of their followers. They create a group identity by articulating and sharing their own dreams, painting vivid descriptions of a future state that touch the unconscious of their people (Freud, 1921; Kets de Vries, 2001a). They possess the uncanny ability to externalize their internal theatre and perform it on a public stage (Lasswell, 1960). They know how to tie in their personal vision with the historical moment (Erikson, 1958, 1963). They foster this process of meaning-management by using language, ceremonies, symbols, and setting.

Leadership and stagecraft, business and theatre, join forces as effective leaders use strategic manoeuvres to mobilize psychological support. Many strong leaders possess great oratorical skills and know how to make use of humour, irony, and the colloquial. Although they use simple language—the language of their audience—to talk directly to their followers’ unconscious, they are adept at employing figurative language such as similes and metaphors to facilitate identification. Furthermore, they tap cultural roots, evoking (and emulating) historical and mythological figures, for example. All these devices, which effective leaders employ with an uncanny sense of timing (and even suspense!), are tools that allow their audience to understand what they have to say.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT Entering the inner theatre of the king

ePub

When we try to evaluate Alexander, we have to remember that we are dealing with a personality that has been the inspiration of myths and legends for over twenty centuries. Alexander overshadowed the age in which he lived more than any man before or since. As we read stories about him—even stories written soon after his death—it is difficult to decide which statements are based on fact and which have been contaminated by the legends that began to form around his person even during his lifetime. Even a thorough study of this great conqueror is likely to yield a highly confused portrait, especially if it seeks to determine and depict the inner man.

An actor in search of a character

There is little agreement among scholars about the personality of Alexander. Since the time of his death in 323 BC, however, the various portrayals of the king have tended to cluster in three camps:

1. One school of thought views him as a murderous, predatory, narcissistic megalomaniac. Scholars who adhere to this opinion are convinced that he was a brutal mercenary from Macedonia, out only to plunder the riches of the east—an autocrat who imposed his will by terror and violence. They suggest that he should be ranked in the annals of history with tyrants such as Stalin and Hitler.

 

CHAPTER NINE The aftermath

ePub

As we saw earlier, before Alexander started his campaign his senior advisers Antipater and Parmenion had advised Alexander to first put his house right in Macedonia and establish a line of succession. He disregarded their advice, however, and embarked on his expedition unmarried and childless, leaving his whole political and military structure almost totally dependent on his survival. His heroic self-exposure—his desire always to be the first in battle, to fight upfront—was a constant invitation to disaster. The many times he was wounded confirm the frailty of the organizational and military machine he had created.

After his death, Alexander’s generals fell to quarrelling about how to divide his legacy. Although his conquests were greater than those of anyone before him, he had made no real effort to integrate and consolidate the governments of the lands he had taken. Because putting in order the enormous empire that he had won was not the most challenging task he could undertake, he chose not to do it—a decision that had almost as much to do with his time period, perhaps, as with his personality. As a result, for the next four decades or more, the empire that Alexander had created and held together by sheer force of personality was ripped apart in his generals’ violent power struggles.

 

CHAPTER TEN Leadership lessons from Alexander the Great

ePub

Alexander also taught the world a number of important lessons on leadership. Through his example, contemporary leaders in business and politics can learn much about what leaders should (and should not) do. The major lessons he taught us should be applied every day in offices and conference rooms throughout the world:

1. Have a compelling vision

2. Develop a creative strategy responsive to enemy strengths

3. Create a well-rounded executive role constellation

4. Model excellence

5. Encourage innovation

6. Manage meaning to foster group identification

7. Encourage and support followers

8. Invest in training and development

9. Consolidate gains

10. Plan for succession

11. Create mechanisms of organizational governance

Have a compelling vision. Alexander’s actions demonstrate what can be accomplished when a person is totally focused, when he or she has a magnificent obsession. His behaviour confirms yet again the importance for leaders of having a clear, well-defined vision; effective leaders must be able to clearly convey what the existing situation is and where they want people to be headed. From early on, Alexander knew what he wanted to accomplish. His leap on to the beach after crossing the Hellespont and his statement about becoming the ruler of Asia made that quite clear. By making such a dramatic gesture, he spoke to the collective imagination of his people. His army was going to make things right; they were going to demand retribution for Xerxes’ slight to the Greek world. Alexander’s rhetorical skills helped them buy into this greatest of all adventures. Alexander knew where he was going and how to get there. Unfortunately, he did not know how or when to stop (to the great confusion and dissatisfaction of his troops).

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781780496061
Isbn
9781780496061
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata