Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Recently I reported the fact that I was reading “POWER AMBITION GLORY – The stunning parallels between great leaders of the ancient world and today…and the lessons you can learn” by Steve Forbes and John Prevas. Well I have finished after re-reading several passages because I was so moved by the historical facts that are intertwined throughout the book with well known business leaders. Let me provide you with some tidbits in hopes that I will wet your whistle for a rewarding read.

“Rem tene veba sequentur” (Get hold of the matter and the words will follow) –Cato.

“In life a man must resign himself to expect anything, and never count on anyone but himself” –Xenophon.

Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, is one of the business comparisons in the Xenophon chapter.

“I set no limits to what a man of ability can accomplish” – Alexander the Great.

In the chapter about Alexander the Great the authors write, “Ambition and the desire for immortality destroyed Alexander the Great. His story is the tragedy of what happens when a leader achieves power and wealth equal to his passion, something the Greek historian Plutarch warned about when he wrote, ‘No beast is more savage than man when he is possessed of power equal to his passion’. Alexander failed because he came to believe his own propaganda, and he lacked the self-control to keep his success within a sane perspective. He was weak within and not strong enough to carry the weight of his success.” (Page #140)

One of the business comparisons to Alexander the Great in the book is Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of TYCO.

“What do you think the Alps are? They are nothing more than high mountains. Their heights are not insurmountable to men of determination. We came to conquer Rome, now steel your hearts and climb” – Hannibal.

In a chapter about Julius Caesar Forbes and Prevas say, “Caesar projected a sense of sovereign self-assurance. There was no question that he was the boss and considered himself the only man for the job. Of course, Caesar was not the first person to live with the delusion that he alone could handle the top job. But in his case, that sense of self-worth turned out to be a double-edged sword. It mesmerized his followers and galvanized his enemies. Throughout his career, Caesar gave the impression that he always knew where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there. That impression eventually proved to be his undoing as it mutated into an imperious arrogance that cost him his life.” (Page #214)

The authors have a sub chapter on Caesar titled “If you are going to cross the Rubicon, make sure you know what you’re doing and where you’re going”. (Page #216) On page 217 they say, “The phrase ‘crossing the Rubicon’ has come to mean willingness to undertake a major and risky course of action from which there is no turning back." Alea iacta est translated means – the dice have been thrown.

When Caesar defeated a defiant Pharnaces in 47 B.C. he uttered the famous words…”Venim Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) at the battle of Zela in northern Asia Minor, which was classic Caesar – quick, thorough, and decisive.

In the section about Augustus, he is quoted as saying, “May it be my privilege to establish the state firm and secure…so that I might be called the author of the best government and when I die the foundation which I have laid will remain.”

Hopefully that is more than enough to draw your interest without completing the parallels the authors draw to modern business leaders with the dominant leaders of the ancient world. I would hope that business schools across our country would make this book required reading, especially for their MBA programs. Even if one’s active business career is now history the book is a most rewarding read.


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