[This is a guest post by Ludvig Sunström who runs Start Gaining Momentum. He writes about practical self-development and gives no-nonsense tips for becoming more efficient. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter and Google+.]
You don’t have to be warlord in order to be a good leader. In fact it’s a rather tough prerequisite to fulfill nowadays.
However, you can learn a lot about leadership from studying history and reading biographies about renowned warlords. I know I certainly have.
Here are a couple of interesting leadership lessons from Hannibal Barca and Julius Caesar.
Hannibal Barca, Dare to Believe
“I will either find a way, or make one.” – Hannibal Barca
Hannibal Barca was one of the greatest warlords who ever existed. He is mostly known for pulling off the logistical feat of crossing the Italian Alps with around 45000 men and 70 war elephants.
The Romans knew that Hannibal and the Carthaginian army were on their way, but they never expected him to be able to enter the Roman Empire by crossing the Alps. Instead they spent months of time and precious resources on fortifying their larger coastal cities in preparation for Hannibal’s expected arrival.
The Romans were completely taken by surprise and never knew what hit them until it was too late. Hannibal went on to conquer large parts of the Roman Empire without ever being defeated for 15 years straight!
This was completely unprecedented – there were very few armies that could even remotely challenge the superiority of the Romans in combat.
None of this would have happened unless Hannibal had dared to believe it was possible. He had to spend many months convincing non-believing Carthaginian statesmen that it was a viable plan to cross the Alps and that he was the man to do it.
Question: When was the last time you dared to do the unconventional?
When there is no Support You Must Support Yourself
“I have come not to make war on the Italians, but to aid the Italians against Rome.”– Hannibal Barca
Hannibal and his army beat the Romans for 15 years straight without receiving any support or reinforcements from Carthage.
The Carthaginian statesmen didn’t like him, so they refused to give him any help. If they had decided to send extra reinforcements and supplies, Hannibal would likely have conquered Rome and history as we know it would be very different.
One of the reasons why Hannibal was able to remain in Italy for so long without help was that he was skilled in enlisting support from the Italian people.
Much of his time was spent on smearing the Roman State and convincing the Italian people that he was a good guy who wanted them no harm. He wanted to turn the people against the state.
Hannibal would often capture Roman legionnaires and hold them for ransom, but the Roman State consistently refused to pay the ransom. Still, Hannibal would let these prisoners walk away.
In doing this Hannibal managed to make the Roman State look bad and as a result the Italian people began to hold in him increasingly high esteem. Some of the Roman prisoners even went so far as desert and join Hannibal’s army in taking revenge on Rome.
Question: How can you turn your enemy’s/competitor’s allies against him?
Julius Caesar, Challenge Authority
When Caesar was only eighteen, he courageously disobeyed the dictator Sulla, who was the most powerful man in the Roman Empire at the time.
Sulla demanded that Caesar divorce his wife Cornelia – with whom he was deeply in love.
When Caesar refused, Sulla put a bounty on his head equivalent to 100 yearly wages of a legionnaire and Caesar went on the run for months.
Question: Do you dare to stand up to authorities to protect those you care about?
Lead by Example
Even though Hannibal is supposedly the first warlord to lead by example, Caesar is perhaps the one who is most well-known for doing so.
Caesar suffered from terrible migraines and fits of epilepsy from time to time, but he learned early not to let that rule his life.
Instead he went to the extreme and fought it in every way possible. He would march along quietly with his men despite having migraines.
In doing so he showed his men that complaints, low morale, and weakness were unacceptable despite adverse circumstances.
Lesson: If you want others to behave in a certain way you must lead by example and do it yourself first. Don’t expect anyone else to do what you are not doing.
Caesar practiced long and hard during his life to become a competent communicator. He was talented not only in formulating plans and strategies, but also in communicating them to other people.
Caesar delegated orders constantly. He had at least two assistants in his presence to whom he dictated written messages to.
Question: How can you simplify your communication and become better at delegating tasks?
Great Leaders Simplify
When Caesar ruled as dictator he made many legal changes. He wanted to get rid of old-fashioned laws that hindered productivity and clogged communication channels.
Caesar implemented antihierarchical regulations of different kinds and was on a mission to rid Rome of flamboyance. For instance, he made it illegal to wear purple-colored clothing and pearls with the exception special occasions.
Question: How can you simplify your organization?
Comment Question: Who are you favorite historical leading figures and why?