Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Leadership lessons from Julius Caesar

Today is the 'Ides of March', a historic date that represents the murder of Caesar and the moment when the Roman Republic morphed into the Roman Empire.

After a brief war with Pharnacles II of Pontus, Caesar had to write a report to Rome detailing his conquest. The commander didn't go into much detail, writing: "I came, I saw, I conquered." The sound bite proved so catchy that we still remember it to this day, centuries later.
In ancient Rome, crossing the Rubicon River with an army was tantamount to a declaration of war and could be punishable by death. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his legion on January 10, 49 BC, he put everything on the line. Suetonius writes that Caesar quoted an Athenian playwright as he crossed the river, declaring "the die is cast."
Caesar once wrote that "in war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes."

In his chronicle of the Gallic Wars, Caesar concludes that: "in most cases men willingly believe what they wish" when describing a tactical mistake on the part of his Gallic enemies.
Caesar writes: "The immortal gods are wont to allow those persons whom they wish to punish for their guilt sometimes a greater prosperity and longer impunity, in order that they may suffer the more severely from a reverse of circumstances."

As a young man, Julius Caesar was abducted by pirates. When the pirates demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar burst out laughing. They did not know, he said, who it was that they had captured, and he volunteered to pay fifty. Caesar went on to promise the pirates that he'd personally kill them once he was free. After he was ransomed, he raised a fleet, hunted them down, and did exactly what he promised.