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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Leadership: As taught by Cyrus the Great

Management Guru, Peter Drucker, said that Xenophon's Cyrus the Great is the best book on Leadership. So, I recently read it. The leadership principles Cyrus explained seem simple and yet difficult to execute consistently. I find it fascinating that the book was written around 2,500 years ago and little has changed in human nature. All the leadership principles taught by Cyrus are still valid.

Please find below the summary of Cyrus's teachings from the book. Enjoy!

Book I: Boldness at the Beginning

  1. Serve as a Moral Compass

It is always the cunning, not the naive, who rise to power, and leaders must use artfulness to make any organization whatsoever work well.

Love humanity, wisdom, and courage.

Avoid shameful conduct. Bring sorrow to no one. Constantly secure well being of all around you.

  1. Absorb as Much Knowledge as Possible

Create the vision in your thoughts before you do it for real.

  1. Seize the Unexpected Opportunity

Hire people you trust.

  1. Inspire Your People with an Enticing Vision of a new Order

  1. Know When to Keep Your Own Counsel

To shock people with the whole truth at the beginning would cause too many of them to shy away.

  1. Always Give Divinity its Due

One should honor both gods and men during his days of good fortune, so that both men and gods will remember him in his time of need.

  1. True Leadership is Making People All they Ought to Be

True leader shuns luxury and ease. Once in power, he should want to work harder than ever.

You need to make logistics your initial concern.

  1. Err on the Side of Self-Reliance

Don’t rely on what you can’t guarantee.

You must always plan ahead

Early on, you can expect no one to believe in your destiny as much as yourself

Book II: Advice fit for Royalty

Loyalty of followers comes from self-interest. When they determine that their leader is no longer acting in their self-interest, their sense of loyalty collapse.

First thing you have to ensure is that everyone who serves you enjoys high-moral and good health.

Avoid overeating and stay trim and strong by working off all the energy that food lends to your body.

  1. Let no one Fall Idle

If an army is to win through to victory, it has to spend all its time helping itself or hurting its foe. Therefore, an army should never be idle.

For kindling their enthusiasm, there is nothing like the power of hope for victory and its rewards.

  1. Obedience should not the result of Compulsion

The best way to secure obedience is to be both wiser and better informed than those we rule.

  1. Imagining Disaster may save you from Tragedy

Leaders must prove tireless if they want to enjoy the trust of their followers

  1. Stealthiness can be employed with Honor

Never hunt a lion or a bear without some special advantage. It teaches you to be cunning and deceit.

Neither child nor servant is allowed to cheat or be envious.

  1. Using Unexpected Tactics Confuses the Foe

Keep all situations in mind, and wherever you are weaker than the enemy, be most on your guard, and wherever your foe is more vulnerable attack without mercy

  1. Wise words Stimulate Inventiveness

  1. Profit from the Folly of Others

Men often fail to understand their own weaknesses and their lack of self-knowledge can bring terrible disaster down on their own heads.

Book III: Rules to Compete by

  1. Exude Confidence, Not Anxiety

Always welcome a guest and recall the shared past to make him feel comfortable

Your questions can reveal your doubts and fears

  1. Recognize the Inevitability of Conflict

You opponent’s defects can provide you with plenty of opportunities to dramatize your strengths.

  1. In the Face of Danger, Be Eager, Not Intimidated

  1. Let Your Tools be Equal to the Task

  1. Address Different Audiences with Different Emphases

  1. Minimize Distinctions of Rank

Living together on equal terms helps people develop deeper bonds and creates a common conscience.

High Morale minimizes disorder and quickly reestablishes order whenever it is broken

You must stamp out any suggestion of overbearing elitism in your higher ranks-and you must ensure that such elitism will never rise again.

Introduce regimen which gives people zest for their food and increased their endurance, and work itself becomes a means for making the men more cooperative with one another. Their experience of shared discipline increases the courage of your followers whenever they faced the foe.

  1. Create Comradeship and Community by Sharing Pleasures

Whenever you dine with your followers, the top priority should be to keep the talk both lively and educational. The best way to succeed in this aim was to use wit. After you get the exchanges going, the men would be encouraged to tell their most entertaining stories, and you should join in the laughter.

  1. Treat Cynics to the Ridicule they Deserve

  1. Toil Up the Steep Ascent

Men are drawn closer to virtue when they see the dishonor that falls on misleaders

Book IV: Seize the Day

  1. Direct the Energy of Internal Rivalries Outward

  1. Couch Your Own Ambition in Terms of Its Benefits to Others

  1. Create a Psychological Advantage by Seizing the Initiative

Battles are decided more by the morale of the troops than by their bodily strength.

  1. Seek Independence of Action

  1. Delay Showing the Extent of Your Strength

  1. Nip Ill- Advised Plans in the Bud

  1. Avoid Disrupting Operations, But Let Your Voice be Heard

  1. Well-Trained Personnel Always Come Through in a Pinch

  1. Go Forward with Spirit and Faith to Carry the Day

  1. Stout Hearts Lead from the Front. Not the Rear

Book V: Swelling the Ranks

  1. Laud Your Heroes as Figures to Emulate

  1. Motivate Your People by Recognizing Merit

  1. Exploit one Victory by Rapidly pursuing the Next

  1. Use Your Own People to Plead Your Cause

  1. Counter Demoralizing Word with Reasoned Argument

  1. Let your Special Admirers work in Your Behalf

  1. Be Quick to Exploit New Alliances

  1. Understand the Motivations of Your Followers

No great action should be undertaken without first preparing your charges to cherish your leadership.

  1. Keep Your Communications Clear and Open

  1. Gather Intelligence from those on the Scene

  1. Don’t give way to a lust for Plunder

The man who is too quick to plunder is no longer a man

Book VI: Spurs to Speed

  1. Overconfidence has been the undoing of many

  1. Give Functionaries an Incentive to Join Your Cause

Success always calls for greater generosity- though most people, lost in the darkness of their own egos, treat it as an occasion for greater greed.

  1. Earn Loyalty by Rewarding Your Critical Allies First

  1. Defeat the Foeman Known as Envy

  1. Effect a Revolution in a Speed of Movement

  1. Convince Your People of the Benefits of Change

  1. The Eloquence of Others May Be as Effective as Your Own

A well-populated country is a rich possession, but a deserted land will soon become a desert.

  1. When Possible, Include your Allies in Your Deliberations

  1. Avoid Any Hint of Megalomania

  1. Good Fortune is no Excuse for Self-Indulgence

Book VII: Hearts Joined As One

  1. Anger Alienates Those Who Feel its Heat

  1. Choose A Worthy Representative

  1. Brevity is the Soul of Command

There is no great need of long speeches at critical moments. Brevity is the soul of command. Too much talking suggests desperation on the part of the leader. Speak shortly, decisively, and to the point- and couch your desires in such natural logic that no one can raise objections. Then move on.

  1. Words must always be used with Finesse

  1. Strive to Achieve a Solemn Sense of Unity

Assembling one’s troops in perfect formation is the best way to remind them that they exist first and last for each other, it also prompts them to recall that true achievement consists of contributing to a common enterprise. Such displays are no waste of time, for they renew pride in officers and men alike.

  1. Surprise Your Friends with Shows of Generosity

  1. Explain Innovations in Terms of Mutual Advantage

Treat your friends so well that they would feel ashamed to deny your request. The lesson is clear: You can gain huge benefits by creating debts of gratitude.

  1. Acting as a Liberator Creates Extraordinary Loyalty

Whenever you can, act as a Liberator. Freedom, dignity, and wealth- these three together constitute the great happiness of humanity. If you bequeath all three to your people, their love for you will never die.

Book VIII: Shifting the Balance

  1. Gross Injustice Demands a Strong Response

  1. Move Quickly to Satisfy Worthy Suppliants

  1. High Cunning is One Thing; Low Cunning is Another

Appeal to people’s immediate self-interest. If cunning is used for people’s benefit it is high cunning.

  1. Thank Your People for Their Continuing Loyalty

  1. Take Measured to Protect Your Person (yourself)

  1. Embrace Every Opportunity to Secure Your Reputation

  1. Humor Should Never be Mixed with Malice

Never make jokes to belittle your comrades.

Book IX: Straight On to Success

  1. Challenge the Competition on Its Own Ground

  1. Wield Psychology like a Weapon

No man can revive the old confidence by retreating

  1. Prompt Your Friends to Speak in Your Behalf

Coach your trusted follower to give your point of view as his own in a public gathering.

  1. Let Old Grudges Seal New Alliances

  1. Script Stratagems that Bring Success

  1. Tactical Victories Alter Strategic Equations

  1. Banish Emotions from Your Decision Making

  1. Refuse to Make Your Friends Expendable

  1. Delve into Details Whenever Details Count Most

  1. Strength Increases with Unity

Book X: The Kindness of Friends

  1. Indiscipline Presages Defeat

Leaders can suffer as much from the indiscipline of their followers as from the hostility of their foes.

When a follower commits a mistake and realizes it, restore their self-confidence, and not drive them to despair.

To discipline the followers, use voice of reason, not the thunder of judgment.

  1. Mild Rebuke Works Better and Loud Condemnation

  1. Negotiate Beneficial Agreements Despite Mutual Distrust

  1. Keep Your Noblest Supporters at Your Side

  1. Moderate Boldness with Caution

  1. Attack Outlying Strong Points First

  1. Strive to Pacify the Alienated

  1. Recognize the Dormant Power in Those Around You

Book XI: Mastering the Ego

  1. Be as Honest with Yourself as You are with Others

  1. When Blameworthy, Humble Yourself with Critics

  1. Let Everyone Witness Your Acts of Reconciliation

  1. Honor the Psychological Needs of Others

  1. Grant Your Supporters Freedom of Speech

Unity is the father of victory.

  1. Anticipate the Difficulties That the Future will Bring

  1. Technical Innovations are Crucial to Victory

Book XII: To Change the World

  1. Salvage Good from Evil

  1. Reap the Rewards of Compassion

Men always long to be ordered to obey their own hearts.

  1. Put Your new Allies to Test

  1. Be Frank about the Challengers Ahead

  1. Emphasize the Strength of Your Own Cohorts

  1. Seek Additional Suggestions from Your Subordinates

Book XIII: The Clash of Arms

  1. Immediately Debrief an Important Source of Intelligence

  1. Know when to Fortify Your People with Praise

  1. Analyze Your Opponent’s Movements with Utmost Concentration

  1. Strengthen Your Composure at the Moment of Crises

  1. When the Shock of Attack is Absorbed by a Powerful Foe

Surprise the foe with a new attack at unexpected places

  1. Salvation Comes from Dedicated Followers

  1. Negotiation Can Work Better Than Naked Force

  1. Respond Immediately to Renegade Actions

  1. Persuade the Defeated to Help You Consolidate Your Success

Book XIV: On the Wings of Victory

  1. Excessive Ambition is Precursor of Disaster

It is not one’s origins that make the man.

  1. Avoid Placing Your Trust in Cunning Natures
  2. Your People are Your Most Precious Treasures

  1. Develop New Tactics on the Spur of the Moment

  1. Cover Your Stratagems (ploys) With a Shroud of Secrecy

  1. Pick the Most Propitious Moment to Launch Your Offensive

  1. Strike at the Heart of Opposing Power

After victory and at the time of rewards, if anyone suspected that his full worth hadn’t been recognized, invite him to talk directly to you.

Book XV: The Temptations of Success

  1. Demonstrate the Disadvantages of a Faulty Procedure

Centralized control may work in the war but in administration decentralization of authority is necessary.

  1. Use the Laughter of Your Colleagues to Discipline Troublesome Followers

  1. Guarantee Your Personal Security

  1. Success Should Never Breed Complacency

No man can maintain his courage unless he cultivates it. Just as the body grows weak through laziness, the powers of spirit- valor, readiness, temperance, and intelligence- may diminish and die.

  1. Only who Serve the People Deserve to Rule the People

  1. Honor Everyone Acts Honorably

We are bound to be proud of the way our children turn out if they see nothing unseemly and hear nothing shameful.

  1. The Leader Must be a Living Law

The leader not only acts a competent guide but also functions as a wise judge, detecting and punishing those who fail to serve the people with justice and honesty.

Book XVI: When Harmony Reigns

You can inspire more decency in your people if you never a shameful word to any man or woman or commit a shameful deed.

  1. Let Courtesy and Self-Control Rule Your Actions

There is a crucial difference between modesty and self-control. The modest person, will do nothing blameworthy in the light of day, but a true paragon of self-control-which we all should strive to be- avoids unworthy actions even in the deepest secrecy of his private life.

You should never sit down to your evening meal until you had exercised enough to earn it.

  1. Fringe Elements are Likeliest Source of Conspiracy

No kindness between man and man comes more naturally than sharing food and drink, especially food and drink of the ambrosial excellence.

  1. Wining and Dining and Bestowing Gifts to the powerful

It is impossible to feel hatred toward those who treat us with love; one should never loose an opportunity to reward your warriors (people), even if one remains uncertain of their loyalty. Your wealth should surpass all others in grandeur of your gifts.

  1. Riches Are for Sharing, Not Harvesting and Hiding

  1. Avoiding the Abuse of Money

When you have more money than you need, share it with your friends.

  1. Gold Is Not a God Of Power and Light

  1. Pageantry (Spectacle) Has Its Place

Book XVII: Leadership and Cunning

  1. Openly Reward Your Best People

  1. Blessed are Those Who Take the Initiative

  1. Keep Insolence at Bay

Men who respond to good fortune with modesty and kindness are harder to find than those who face adversity with courage. For in the nature of things, success tends to create pride and blindness in the hearts of men, while suffering teaches them to be patient and strong.

  1. Distribute Wealth Wisely

  1. Mixing Marriage and Alliance

  1. Listen to the Warnings of the Wise

  1. Be Ever True to Solemn Vows

  1. Balance the Power of Your Highest-Ranking Officials

Book XVIII: Wisdom of Ages

Set up a system that keeps you inform about unexpected events, even when they occur in at the remotest corners of the country.

  1. The Messenger in the Dream

You will know when it is time to go

  1. Set Your House in Order

If you succeed, it will only be through the strength of your faithful friends. You must never imagine that loyal hearts spring up like grass in the field. No, every leader must actively raise up his followers and you must win their hearts by the kindness that springs with love.

  1. Comradeship Makes All the World One

  1. Reverence God and the Human Race

Do you agree with everything Cyrus taught?