Lessons of Modern Leadership from Ancient History

Lessons of Modern Leadership from Ancient History

A recent trip to Egypt with my family got me thinking about lessons from our earliest civilization. What can we learn from a 5,000-year-old civilization that is relevant to business today?

Focus on your vision and make sure everyone understands

There are many magnificent sites in Egypt that were inspired by a single, clear goal.  For example, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by Pharaoh Khufu to be a lasting monument to his legacy. Khufu wanted to create a structure that would ensure he would never be forgotten. And, since the Great Pyramid is the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that is still intact, you can argue that Khufu was one of the most memorable leaders in history.

But, we know this visionary Pharaoh did not build this wonder alone. He inspired countless workers and artisans to create something that was unique and enduring. The team understood the ultimate goal and executed the plan. Are we clear about our vision for success? Have we clearly communicated our strategic goals to our teams?

Value your team’s diversity

The great tombs and temples of ancient Egypt share an important trait – they were created by thousands of workers who each brought their own talents and skill sets to the job. Each structure required skilled architects and engineers to design structures that would endure for thousands of years. In addition, great writers, sculptors, and painters helped preserve the stories of ancient Egypt through the art and hieroglyphics that are still visible in the walls and floors of these structures. And of course, there was great leadership who planned and leveraged these diverse talents.

Does your business have the right team assembled to execute your plans? Are the diverse strengths of your team members identified and valued? Are you a strong enough leader to include people on your team who are better than you – who make up for your weaknesses with their strengths?

There may be treasure buried in the sand – don’t be afraid to learn from the past. 

One of the most amazing sites in Egypt, the Abu Simbel Temples, were built by the great ruler, Ramses II to honor his legacy and that of his wife, Nefertari. However, with changing priorities in Egyptian culture, these incredible structures were forgotten and eventually covered by sand for a few thousand years. Not until the early 1800’s, did explorers look to the past to rediscover this important treasure.

How often do we get caught up in the crisis of the moment – too busy to think about anything but the ‘right now’? Have we asked ourselves the tough questions about where we have been successful – and where we have failed in the past? In our fervor to be original thinkers and leaders, have we forgotten about the treasures and methods that already exist and will help us learn from the past and grow our business today?

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