Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What can we learn from 300?

IGN: 300
Going with the theme of yesterday's post. King Leonidas of the Spartans is depicted in the movie 300. He is faced with decisions that most leaders would go crying home to their mommies about.Not this Leader, he strikes out into no-man's land to save his people. This is a movie that gets me amped up and ready to charge the machine gun nest. I don't think I've talked to too many red blooded men who don't agree that this an awesome movie. Additionally, I've not heard too many woman complain about all the strapping, young, 6-pack abs men either.

What can we gain from King Leonidas example as it applies to Leadership? I think plenty, read on...
For those of you who haven't had the opportunity or time to watch this movie go here Battle of Thermopylae

The setting for this is a time when the Persian's had conquered most of the known world. They send "Messengers" to tell the Spartans that if they only submit, they will keep their lands and will not be thrown into enslavement. Now King Leonidas knows that he is outnumbered badly, he also knows that he cannot go to war unless the oracle (Weird, Corrupt Religious group) endorses it. So, what is he to do?

There are many times in our careers as Leaders that we know the right answer, then there's the right thing to do. King Leonidas could have very easily bowed down before the Persians and saved his people. To do that would have gone against every fiber in his body and contradicted everything that he was raised to believe.

He finds himself in a place where those that make plans and polices have no clue as to why he won't just give in. They are willing, to save their own places in power, to succumb to the Persians demands. He knows that by Spartan law he cannot go against those that make plans and polices. However, you can take a trusted few, 300 to be exact and go to meet the Persians.

When your faced with the right answer and doing the right thing, consider the following:
  • Always have Integrity, no matter what the circumstance or how much you have to lose: This is by far  the number one quality any leader needs to have if they are going to be successful. The reason that Integrity is so important is that when the chips are on the table, people know where you stand and know that you won't falter or be bribed into bad choices.
  • People first, have a Passion for your people: So many decisions made in the board rooms across America don't place the people first, they are more concerned with the bottom line and how their bonuses are effected. Now, I'm no fool, I understand that companies are in business to make money. It always becomes a case of what came first, the horse or the cart? History has shown that you can cut costs and maintain jobs. Sure, there is sacrifice, in the short term though. The long haul is where it works out and all involved come out ahead. Don't ever sacrifice your people out of fear.
  • Sometimes, you have to sacrifice: King Leonidas had no visions that he and his 300 men where going to defeat the Persians. Sure, he knew that they could take a few with them, in the end though he knew they would sacrifice their lives for the greater good. I can understand this principal well. I have served this country for over 20 years, always ready to lay my life down if called to do so. I'm no hero, I just believe in duty, honor, commitment and country. When you carry that kind of loyalty in front of your people, they will respect you and follow you. In turn, you have to be willing to take a bullet for them as well. 
  • Empowerment: When you do the right thing, it empowers those around you. Sure, sometimes you pay the price for it in the short term, overall though you send a message to your people and superiors that you will go the extra mile, regardless of the cost. 
In the end, King Leonidas and his 300 paid the price for their beliefs. There strength in the face of such odds was inspiring, when the rest of the plans and policy people got on-board the whole spartan army was deployed. History tells us that is was the Navy that defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, which should come as no surprise to no one. Notably, one of the main reasons for their loss was the fact that a local shepherd showed the Persians how to go around the pass that the Spartans where defending. 

As a leader, you will face the same thing, someone will betray you for their benefit. It happens, I'll save it for another post.  

Have you had to stand for something that others thought you were foolish to stand for?

What do you think are some of the best qualities in a leader?

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