15 Leadership Traits from the Gladiator

gladiatorOne of my favorite movies is Gladiator starring Russell Crowe. It’s not for the fighting and action, , , it is for the first five minutes that lead up to the battle scene.

Let’s step back a moment and I’ll explain why I’m writing this article.

One of my first managers was an IBM Systems Engineering manager early in my career. Bryan gave me some excellent guidance and recommended one thing the very first week I met him that I’ve always remembered.

He suggested that I should, “observe others and incorporate the good things into my own approach to doing things and avoid the bad things”.

In other words, take the best of the best as you develop your own style and way of doing things. It was a powerful piece of advice that has helped me throughout my career.

I observe management techniques and leadership skills in all walks of life.

For example, one of the best managers I know is George Ippolito, an Italian restaurant owner. George does such a good job that he has tremendous repeat business and staff that stays with him for years, something that’s rare in the restaurant business. He is successful because he earns it every day and he coaches his employees how to deliver excellent service.

The movie Gladiator got my attention immediately. It was the first five minutes that gave me chills as I recognized leadership skill after leadership skill. Much of it is subtle, but I can assure you the leadership and management traits are there and they are great examples that can be applied in your IT world.

The movie is a fictional piece of work, but there are valuable insights that come from what you see in the first five minutes.

In this first scene Maximus Meridius, General and Commander of the Northern Legions of the Roman Army, is taking a moment to reflect and prepare for one final battle after years of war. He returns to his army to meet briefly with other generals to finalize the coordination of the Roman cavalry and infantry attack on the German warriors.

As he walks through the ranks of his infantry, you see something very powerful.

What you see is admiration and respect, , , not just from the soldiers, but from both soldiers and from the General. He even stops to speak with one of the soldiers who has a head wound and taps him on the shoulder. You see mutual respect for one another and you get a real sense that both men would do anything to help the other be successful.

In the first five minutes of the movie there are at least 15 examples of leadership and management, , , if you are looking for them.

Whenever I need a morale boost, I pop Gladiator into the DVD player and watch the first five minutes. It’s all I need for a “pick me up”.

Leaders don’t always set out to become leaders. In fact, many leaders probably don’t even realize they are leading when in fact they are having enormous impact upon those around them.

Leaders are developed over time and by consistently doing things that causes others to look at them as leaders. Here are five examples of what creates a leader:

1.  They do the right thing.

2.  They step up and make tough decisions.

3.  They lead by example.

4.  They respect and appreciate the effort of others (managers, peers, and subordinates).

5.  They learn what works and implement replicable processes to succeed.

In the movie Gladiator, I picked up on several leadership and management examples worth noting:

1.  Organization  –  Every part of the army is organized with leadership within each sub-organization to see that the job gets accomplished successfully. A certain amount of structure is needed in any organization to succeed

2.  Process  –  There is a specific process used and replicated to achieve success. Each soldier knows his duties and is trained to handle them.

3.  Supervision  –  Soldiers and the processes are supervised to insure things are carried out appropriately.

4.  Motivation  –  The soldiers are motivated by having achieved success in the past and the goals that lie ahead with one final success in battle. Maximus also delivers a motivational pitch to his cavalry just before the attack to motivate his men.

5.  Inspection  –  Generals inspect components of the plan and processes underway, , , they know that inspection is a key for success.

6.  Strategy  –  The Roman Legions have a simple, coordinated battle strategy that’s very effective. It takes advantage of each element of the army’s strengths and capabilities and attacks the vulnerabilities of the opposing force.

7.  Planning  –  Planning is obvious as you see the battle unfold. Everything works like clockwork. A great strategy won’t work unless you are able to plan and implement effectively.

8.  Providing tools and equipment for the job  –  The soldiers are well equipped and have the support they need to succeed.

9.  Trained employees  –  Action is methodical and coordinated, a sign the soldiers are trained to do their job.

10.  Backup  –  Maximus loses his sword as he enters the battle. A backup sword prevents downtime or loss. I’m pretty sure the General must have been a very early “IT guy”.

11.  Delegation  –  Responsibilities are delegated to competent leaders within the army. One guy can’t do it all.

12.  Communication  –  Communication is key, from discussions with other officers, motivational acknowledgements to the foot soldiers, to the rally delivered to the cavalry. Even the fire arrow signal sent to start the battle is an example of communicating effectively.

13.  Leadership by example – Maximus doesn’t just bark out orders, , , he leads his cavalry into battle. The reason he has so much respect from all levels of the army is that he is willing to do what he asks of his men. He leads by example.

14.  Treating others with respect – You can see mutual respect between the General and the men, , , it starts by the General sincerely respecting what his men do to win battles, , , even the lowest paid soldier in the army.

15.  Teamwork – Soldiers of each component of the army work together as a team and all teams work in a coordinated fashion so the army as a whole can be effective in winning battles.

Who would have guessed that so many leadership skills could be exhibited in the first 5 minutes of a movie?

I encourage you to observe others and incorporate the positives you see into your management style. It can help you achieve more success and promote your career over time.

Best of success,

signature_mike sisco

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