Eight Virtues of Gladiator
by Gregory P. Smith
Remember the heart-pounding, soul-stirring message of last year’s critically
acclaimed movie Gladiator? Remember how Maximus, the Russell Crowe
character, rallied his men around him and led them to victory, even in the
face of almost certain defeat? Remember his “envision the goal” technique
for getting through the horrors of battle? Now, consider the leadership in
your own company. Any gladiators in the ranks? Are you a gladiator?
The time is right for a more heroic style of leadership. Desperate times
lend themselves to the rise of gladiators. Instead of seeing today’s economy
as a negative, executives should view it as an opportunity in disguise - a
chance to position your organization for the inevitable economic upswing.
Here are eight virtues of Gladiator Leadership.
1. Gladiators have a mission for which they feel real
Call it a purpose, an obsession, a calling: whatever the terminology, good
leaders have a defining mission in their life. This mission, above all other
traits, separates managers from leaders. In Gladiator, Maximus lived
for the mission of killing the evil usurper Commodus and restoring Rome to
the values that made her great.
2. Gladiators create a vision.
Having and communicating a clear picture of a future goal will lead to its
achievement. Dare to think great! Maximus helped his fellow gladiators see
that they could overthrow their enemies and survive the horror of the battles
they were forced to participate in. In business, a leader may create an “enemy”
- the economy, the competition, inefficiency - to challenge the energies of
his or her people and give them something to fight for.
3. Gladiators lead from the front - they don’t dictate
from the back.
In the movie, both when Maximus was a general and a gladiator, he fought up
front where the firestorm was heaviest. So does a good business leader. Working
“in the trenches” shows that you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, it
helps you fully understand the issues your “soldiers” are facing, and inspires
loyalty in your troops.
4. Gladiators know there is strength in teams.
Where would Maximus have been if he hadn’t trusted his men to fight with him
and cover his back? Likewise, where would you be without your employees? While
the gladiator leader has the skills to draw people together, he doesn’t hog
the spotlight. He has care and compassion for his team and wants every member
to be recognized for his or her efforts. This is especially important in a
time when the old style “command and control” structure is waning. Younger
workers (Generations X and Y) tend to be loyal to their coworkers rather than
the traditional “organization.”
5. Gladiators encourage risk-taking.
In the Roman Empire, gladiators were expected to die with honor. Refusing
to lie down and let one’s opponents win was bucking the status quo. (And certainly,
killing the reigning emperor - however corrupt - simply was not done!) If
a company does not examine its way of doing things, if it does not push out
its boundaries, if it never makes mistakes, it may become road kill.
6. Gladiators keep their heads in a crisis.
Maximus had to think on his feet and refuse to give into terror and panic.
He faced the most formidable foes calmly and with focus. Business leaders
must do the same. They must take a position and defend it when things go awry.
Being graceful and brave under fire is the surest way to build credibility
- a necessity for sound leadership. Gladiators don’t retreat due to the slowing
economy, but look for the opportunity under their feet.
7. Gladiators prepare for battle 24 hours a day.
Essentially, a Roman gladiator was a fighting machine. To stay alive, his
mind had to be constantly on the upcoming battle. Business leaders, likewise,
must be obsessed with training and developing their people in good times and
bad. People need and want to hone their individual skills and “sharpen their
swords.” Furthermore, good leaders must constantly learn what’s necessary
to survive and unlearn the “old rules.” Just because a management style worked
a decade ago does not mean it will work in today’s economy - good leaders
evolve with the times.
8. Gladiators are teachers and mentors.
Maximus taught his men the lessons they would need to survive in their new
role as gladiators. In today’s rapidly changing environment, leaders must
also teach and train those who may soon replace them. We are not necessarily
talking about formal classroom training. We need leaders talking to people
in the hallway, in the restaurant . . . everywhere. Everyone should be mentoring
Gregory P. Smith shows businesses how to build productive and profitable
work environments that attract, keep and motivate their workforce. He is the
author of the book called, Here Today Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your
Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention. He speaks at conferences,
conducts management training and is the President of a management consulting
firm called Chart Your Course International located in Conyers, Georgia.
Phone him at 770-860-9464 or visit his website at http://www.ChartCourse.com.
by Gregory P. Smith | More like this in
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