Lots of books talk about the “new business reality” or “the bold revolution that will change the way we live and work forever.” Whenever some author pontificates about how he or she knows new technology will change us as people, I always laugh and roll my eyes. I used to believe the “Myth of Modernity.” The Myth of Modernity goes something like this: We are smarter than people were in the olden days and we can, therefore, look smugly on their “primitive” way of life. When someone talks about “primitive” people, or how much smarter we are today because we have microwaves and flush toilets, it draws me to my conclusion: The author doesn’t know much about history. If the pontificator knew history, he or she would know that people are pretty much the same as they have always been, (except for the microwaves and flush toilets). Why don’t people read histories? It is because many historians are boring writers. Forbes and Prevas are not boring. They have compared six historical figures from the Persian, Greek and the Roman Empires (somewhere between 2500 and 2000 years ago) and current business leaders (somewhere between the last decade and last week). A study of these ancient men (Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Xenophon, and Hannibal) will show that their successes and failures pretty much predict the successes and failures of today’s business leaders. There is nothing new, only what has been forgotten. For example, Xenophon is a great example of a reluctant leader; Caesar Augustus a great administrator; Hannibal a great risk-taker.
Bonus: If you read it, you’ll also learn the origin of the US Postal Service motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” (Hint: it isn’t the Pony Express. They borrowed it from someone 2500 years ago.)
Quibble: I am much more convinced by the comparisons of ancient to current failures in leadership than the comparisons of the successes. With current figures, we still don’t know how they turn out. The ancient guys are dead.