Courage, Culture, and Leadership

Consider the source.

Agesilaus, a King of Sparta from 400 B.C. to about 360 B.C. understood the value of leading from the front. He also understood the power of words. He knew that you should always consider the source. 

In his work On Sparta, Plutarch documents insights from many Kings including Agesilaus. 

Ironically, these timeless principles are just as applicable today in our modern world.

“Whenever he heard of people being critical or complimentary, he considered it just as important to establish the characters of those talking as of those being talked about.” 

We give people too much credit for their opinions that run wild. Social media posts, online reviews, fake news, market research, and many other opinions are everywhere. The internet and our globally connected world have contributed to a number of advancements over the years.

But how often do you hear about the character of the people commenting on you or your work?

Agesilaus knew that you should lead from the front. Doing work is hard.  

“He frequently remarked that the commander should outclass his troops not in fastidiousness and high living, but in stamina and courage.

He recommended his friends to strive to be rich not in possessions, but in courage and merit.”

If the King wanted to motivate his troops, he did not inspire them with hollow words and loud orders. He led first through his actions. Too many managers like to talk about what needs to be done, but rarely are they capable or willing to do the work themselves. Delegating and empowering your team is important. But make sure you are setting the standard through your own actions.

“Whenever he wanted some job done promptly by his troops, he first got down to it personally in full view of everyone. 

He was prouder of working just as hard as anyone, and in exercising self-discipline, than he was of being king.”

Agesilaus knew that talk is cheap. Words without action are meaningless. Culture and leadership are more than slogans on a company website. Watch what actions are valued within your organization. What do people do? What do the people in charge do?

“When he was asked how someone might most surely earn people’s esteem, he replied: ‘By the best words and the finest actions.’”

Without people, there is no one to lead. The King knew that without strong people, there was no Sparta and there was no defending Sparta.

“When somebody else asked why Sparta lacked fortification walls, he pointed to the citizens under arms and said: ‘These are the Spartans’ walls.’

When another person put the same question to him, his reply was: ‘Cities shouldn’t be fortified with stones or timbers, but with the valour of their inhabitants.’”

Good leaders were made in Sparta because they knew how to lead and follow. In any team the leaders and the dynamics change over time depending on the situation. 

Context is everything. We’ve heard the labels of peacetime generals or wartime generals. Today’s economic environment seems to be more of an “at war” scenario. 

“When asked another time for what particular reason the Spartiates enjoyed notably more success than others, he said: ‘Because more than others they train to give orders and to take them.’

He used to say that a general needs to show daring towards his opponents, goodwill towards his subordinates, and a cool head in crises.”

When it comes to your best words and your finest actions, think about your character. Think about your courage. Think about your ability to stay calm. Think about your support for others. 

It worked for the warriors of Sparta. Thousands of years later, it can work for you and your team in today’s modern battlefield.

Why? Because courage, character and leadership are timeless principles used to overcome any challenge.

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