Leading Down

Strategic Leadership Lessons by Xenophon

Authenian Soldier and Author (431 350 BC)

Xenophon leadership advice

Lessons from Leaders

Innompic Messages


Leadership is done from in front. Never ask others to do what you, if challenged, would not be willing to do yourself.

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Authority flows to the one who knows: a leader must be technically and professionally competent in his field. You must know your business. This is the necessary condition for winning respect and trust.

Leadership Attributes

Lead by example: a leader shares fully in the risks, hardships and dangers of the army or workforce.

A leader inspires others by encouraging them in times of difficulty or challenge, expressing confidence in them and their ability to surmount the hurdles before them. You can lift people's spirits with a word of encouragement and support.

A leader reminds people of why they are working and striving for self, family and comrades certainly, but for that which transcends self.

A leader has to be firm and just in maintaining necessary order. Without a certain toughness in this regard you will not win the respect of the group as a whole.

A leader should show humanity, a basic empathy with people. Rejoice with others when any good befalls them, and sympathize when ills overtake them, as they can us all. Give practical help to individual team members in any kind of need where you can do so.

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Above all, a leader is there at the right time and place. Never underestimate the positive influence that your very presence can exert in a situation.


The First Systematic Book on Leadership

Xenophon authored the first systematic book on leadership, two thousand years ago, and it is still one of the best. Xenophon was a general. His book 'Our Military Expedition to Persia' tells the story of the fight to return to the Black Sea against overwhelming odds. Xenophon, like all Greek commanders, led from the front; he was seen in the thick of combat, never flinching, always seeming to do the right thing. His book is a story of courage, improvisation, and discipline, self-sacrifice, and above all leadership. Xenophon practiced leadership in a different time and a different place, but the lessons of his experiences, the principles or laws of integrity, commitment, duty and the others have eternal value.



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Xenophon leadership advice

There is a small risk a leader will be regarded with contempt by those he leads if, whatever he may have to preach,

he shows himself best able to perform.