Leadership throughout History

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Leadership throughout human history has always been problematic. Different groups of people always have their own visions on how a leader should lead. Of course there will always be people that are against the leader’s ideas, policies, and views, but the way a leader should behave is completely different. Some leaders behave as gods, they are more powerful than others and don’t hesitate to show it, these individuals can be rude and unapproachable . They will do anything to keep their power to stay a “celebrity”. 

Other leaders prefer to lead in a humble and empathetic way, these individuals don’t really care about their public image as long as it is acceptable. These leaders will create links with their workforce and subordinates. In the end these are the people that will get the most done because of the amiability of their work environment and employee happiness. 

Leaders that have God-Complexes and are arrogant have caused the fall of numerous companies, enterprises, nations, and even entire civilizations. 

Former President Obama, A great example of inspiring and down-to-earth leadership

A great example of a leader that caused a nation to fall into chaos is the 18th emperor of Rome, Commodus ( 161-192). He was born into the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty, the emperors before him were known as the “Five good emperors” because of their exceptional service to the Roman Empire. Commodus was unlike the previous emperors because he was uninterested in state service. His decision to entrust the rule of the empire to the palace chamberlain and the praetorian prefects had disastrous consequences. After many attempted coups against him he decided to take almost dictatorial powers, this ruined his standing with the Roman Senate. During his reign the Roman economy was severely crippled. He enjoyed styling himself as Hercules and performing in the Colosseum as a Gladiator. Yet he was no exceptional combattant. In the arena he would usually kill animals with a bow and arrow or when he did fight gladiators they would submit to him or be crucified. His reign ended because of being held underwater by a wrestler in a bath. Commodus’ time as Emperor of Rome plunged it into multiple years of chaos and instability.

( sources: Wikipedia and Phys.org )

Emperor Commodus dressed like the demi-god Hercules

An example of a company that fell due to bad leadership is Nokia. Nokia used to dominate the cellphone market, yet around 2010 the company lost 90% of its market value because it couldn’t keep up with its rival Apple. This was mainly due to something experts call the Ostrich Effect. The Ostrich Effect happens when a companies’ leadership refuses to hear bad news. An investigation into the fall of Nokia by INSEAD showed that the fall of the company wasn’t due to old tech but bad leadership. Things like “organizational fear, temperamental leaders, frightened managers, and just the fear of telling the truth” caused the fall of this company.

( sources: Idea to value and Predictable Profits )

Nokia headquarters in Finland

A shining example of exemplary leadership is Nelson Mandela ( He went through extreme hardships just as the rest of the Black population of South Africa during the Apartheid. He first led the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Nelson admired Ghandis’ principles of Non-Violence but quickly realized that that wouldn’t work in South Africa. Even throughout 27 years in prison he stayed dedicated to the Anti-Apartheid movement. In the end Nelsons’ persistence ended Apartheid in 1992. Nelson Mandela went on to become president of South Africa in 1994. His main concern became “National Conciliation” in order to create a multicultural democracy. During the 1995 rugby world cup, Nelson Mandela Famously utilized the South African Rugby team to unify the nation. The slogan was “One Team, One Country”. Coincidentally that year South Africa defeated its rival, New Zealand, and won the rugby world cup. Nelson Mandelas’ leadership is a great example to us all, he never gave up through all the hardships he went through. He stayed a man of the people and is one of Historys’ most inspiring figures.

( sources: IMD Magazine and the History Channel )

Nelson Mandela shaking hands with Rugby player François Pienaar

In conclusion, leaders should always maintain contact with the people, they must remember no individual is above another whether they hold more or less power. A leader should also give the example by being a respectable, honest and caring person. 

Further Reading:

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela movie ( invictus )

Emperor Commodus

Watch the movie Gladiator for a good representation of Commodus

Fall of Nokia

By Laird Balas

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