About Leadership

In a broader sense, what makes someone a leader? Why one decides to lead or to follow? Not only within corporations, but in any instance where more than person is necessary to accomplish a given task, how leadership emerges and how the leader is able to inspire followers to give the best to the bigger goal of the group? No doubt that a leader must have vision, must be optimistic, and must communicate very well to his or her followers what are the benefits to accomplishing the goal, what the consequences of not achieving the goal are for the group. Also, good leaders make followers feel valued and have a strong sense of belonging.

A good example of a leader who understood the leadership framework very well was Roman general Scipio Africanus. During the Second Punic War, the final battle that marked the end of the war, where he defeated General Hannibal, was the battle of Zama. Hannibal had never been defeated by Romans, having marched over Italia for years attacking and wining battles one over another. Making a long story short, Hannibal was forced to go back to North Africa, to defend Carthage against Scipio Africanus. Scipio was much younger than Hannibal and less experienced, and this was the speech he gave to his troop before the final battle, according to historian Polybius:

Remember the battles you have fought in the past and bear yourselves like brave men who are worthy of your reputation and of your country. Keep this fact before your eyes: that if you overcome the enemy not only will you be the complete masters of Africa, but you will win for yourselves and for Rome the unchallenged leadership and sovereignty of the rest of the world [vision]. If the battle should turn out otherwise, those of you who fall will meet a death that is made for ever glorious by this sacrifice for your country [consequence of failure, belonging], but those who save themselves by flight will be left with a life that brings them nothing but misery and disgrace. There will be no place in Africa that can give you safety, and if you should fall into the hands of the Carthaginians, no one who faces the facts can doubt what treatment will await you. I pray that none of you may live to suffer that fate [consequence of failure]. And so now that Fortune has given us the choice of the most glorious of prizes according to which way the battle is decided [optimism], we should be the most mean-spirited, and in a word the most witless of all mankind if we were to reject the most splendid of rewards and choose the worst of misfortunes merely in order to cling to life. So when you go to meet the enemy, there are two objects only to keep before you, to conquer or to die. When men are inspired by that spirit, they will always master their adversaries [optimism], for when then enter the battle they have already chosen to sacrifice their lives.” (Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire)

Scipio Africanus won over Hannibal's more experienced troops, took Carthage and destroyed it, allowing the rise of the Roman Empire to its apogee.

And there is an interesting note about Machiavelli. He wrote that "it would be desirable to be both one and the other; but as it is difficult to be both at the same time, it is much more safe to be feared than to be loved, when you have to choose between the two" (1532, Machiavelli, Niccolo, The Prince, pg. 85). He had the belief (wrong in my opinion) that "mankind is bad" and "men in general are ungrateful and fickle, dissemblers, avoiders of danger, and greedy of gain", and he believed that "love holds by a bond of obligation which is broken on every occasion whenever it is for the interest of the obliged part to break it." Finally, he concludes that people love according to their own free will, but fear by the will of the leader (or the prince), and therefore a wise leader should rely upon himself instead of the will of others, and above all the leader should look for not being hated.

I don't think there is a place for the one who takes the "fear" path nowadays, although we still see cases of executive leadership acting as if they were doing it according to Machiavelli's leadership framework.