“There is a growing legion of business people who are hungry to build something of enduring character on a set of values they can be proud of.” — Jim Collins, “Built to Last”
For the 75th anniversary issue of the Harvard Business School alumni(ae) magazine, 817 MBAs and executive education participants were asked: What should we teach our future business leaders? The top five responses were (in reverse order): leadership, technology, entrepreneurship, globablization, and — the most cited lesson for tomorrow’s business leaders by a wide margin — morals, ethics, and values.
More than 2,300 years ago in distant Macedonia, the father of a young leader had already put into action this survey result. He nurtured a son who conquered half the known world by the age of 23 and the entire globe by 33. His story helps us understand what it takes to build a truly significant global brand.
“Some say knowledge is power, but that is not true. Character is power.” — Shri Sathya Sai Baba
The son of powerful King Philip, Alexander the Great could have been a fun-loving wastrel. He could have reveled in his physical prowess and beauty, adored by those attracted to wealth and power.
However, his father knew Alexander was capable of much more. King Philip called for the help of not another king or warrior, but of a philosopher whose fame spread all the way from Athens. “Aristotle,” the King enjoined, “Teach my son to lead. Teach him the source of true power, of character.” (” Making a Life, Making a Living” by Mark Albion, Warner Books, 2000)
As it was spoken, Aristotle was ushered into the great hall to begin Alexander’s apprenticeship.
“If you are not to be a despot, know this,” began Aristotle. “The men and women outside your borders are not beasts to be slaughtered and humiliated. That leads to resentment, uprisings, and the endless warfare of many of the cruel monarchs you know of. Lead from your heart and your mind, not through slaughter.”
“If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral.” — Samuel P. Ginder
Alexander had worked to become a master of the sword, but Aristotle taught him gratitude and admiration — especially for the people he conquered.
“Listen to the people you’ll conquer. They seek to be respected, acknowledged, and told: You are wise, too. You too are seekers of truth. In this way, they will learn to trust you.
“Tell them of the greatness of thought. Speak to them about your admiration of their deeds — of their gods, of their good ways. Respect is the most profound weapon, for it conquers more than the body. It conquers the heart and the mind.
“Once they believe you are a good man and a wise leader, talk with their elders about how they can thrive in your empire. They will lift their heads and hearts to build a new world with you. They will love you with gratitude, and gain the only immortality we can ever gain: of life that has added to life.”
“Those who would make us feel must feel themselves.” — Charles Churchill
And so, this was how Aristotle taught Alexander leadership. He insisted that leadership meant three things: ethos, logos and pathos — a combination of character, logic, and compassion, not just competence manifest by the sword.
A fierce warrior, Alexander put down the sword once people were conquered,. He saved his heart and mind to listen, to learn, to show he cared.. He showed such tolerance and respect that he became admired and loved by those he conquered.
At 33, Alexander the Great, renowned for his compassion, had conquered the entire known world.
“Before a man can conquer the world, he must learn to conquer himself.” — Alexander the Great
Brand Lifeline: Build Your Brand on Character and Compassion
“Man masters nature not by force but by understanding.” — Jacob Bronowski
Alexander’s story reminds us that while competence is important, it is just the ante to play the game. Our uniqueness is found in our character and compassion. They create a bond and trust that says, “I need you and you need me. Let’s help each other.” That’s how you stand out in the marketplace.
In my experience, what separates those who attain the top positions from those who don’t is a willingness to help others achieve their goals. Those at the top are teachers, listeners, developers of people. Reflections of the person Aristotle taught Alexander to be; reflections of industrialist and social visionary Konosuke Matsushita, who taught his executives about character and compassion by his daily example.
“Treat the people you do business with as if they were a part of your family. Prosperity depends on how much understanding one receives from the people with whom one conducts business.” — Konosuke Matsushita (1894 – 1989)
The father of $75 billion empire, Mashushita was revered in Japan with nearly as much respect and reverence as was the Emperor. And he was just as busy.
One day, Matsushita was to eat lunch with his executives at a local Osaka restaurant (“Matsushita Leadership” by John Kotter). Upon his entrance, people stopped to bow and acknowledge this great man. Matsushita honored the welcome and sat at a table selected by the manager.
Matsushita ate only half of his meal. He asked for the chef, who appeared in an instant, shaken and upset. The Great One nodded and spoke: “I felt that if you saw I had only eaten half of my meal, you would think I did not like the food or its preparation. Nothing could be less true. The food and your preparation of it were excellent. I am just old and can not eat as much as I used to. I wanted you to know that and to thank you personally.”
Like Alexander 23 centuries before, Matsushita knew how to communicate who he was, what he believed, and how much he cared about the well-being of others. He knew how to build a global brand that represented kindness, strength, and dignity.
“Great leaders…. motivate large groups of individuals to improve the human condition.” — John Kotter
Copyright © 2000 Dr. Mark S. Albion. All rights reserved.