In the past, people served machines. Today, machines free people to do what technology can’t: sell, service, and lead. As we explore this global shift from the industrial to the digital age, we cordially invite your voice in Developing the 21st Century Workforce™.
By Jack McDaniel
Sometimes, the deep past offers a powerful lesson for the present.
In The Virtues of War, Steven Pressfield’s fantastic novel about Alexander the Great, the Persian emperor Darius III brought a supply caravan 1½ miles in length with him to the decisive Battle of Issus, fought in 333 BC in modern-day Turkey.
This retinue wasn’t for Darius’s army of over 100,000 fighting men – it was his own personal household coterie.
The baggage train included cooks, perfumers, hairstylists, talking macaws and panthers in cages, astrologers, butlers, and the emperor’s favorite wives – who had attendants of their own. In contrast, Alexander’s band of 50,000 Macedonians and their allies traveled light and fast, knowing that they had little time to achieve their goals before the difficulties of remaining in enemy territory hundreds of miles from home would overwhelm them.
So how did this band of Macedonian upstarts defeat the mightiest army in the ancient world? By using what Pressfield calls the Virtues of War: blinding speed, superior tactics, and versatility on the battlefield. In response, the Persian army was heavy, slow… and doomed.
Speed, tactics, and versatility. Aren’t these virtues the same for business? In any economy – much less today’s globally challenging one – organizations need to be nimble, able to move quickly to take advantage of changing market conditions. They must have a superior vision that serves as a guidepost in a murky landscape. And the most successful organizations incubate change leaders who aren’t afraid to try new strategies, learn from their setbacks, and set an example for their colleagues.
An organization’s most valuable asset is its people. Alexander knew how to maximize his investment in this asset. Although the Battle of Issus took place over 2,300 years ago, we can learn from his example.