Power Ambition Glory
The Stunning Parallels between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today . . . and the Lessons You Can
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
Based on an extraordinary collaboration between Steve Forbes, chairman, CEO, and editor in chief of Forbes Media, and classics professor John Prevas, Power Ambition Glory provides intriguing comparisons between six great leaders of the ancient world and contemporary business leaders.
• Great leaders not only have vision but know how to build structures to effect it. Cyrus the Great did so in creating an empire based on tolerance and inclusion, an approach highly unusual for his or any age. Jack Welch and John Chambers built their business empires using a similar approach, and like Cyrus, they remain the exceptions rather than the rule.
• Great leaders know how to build consensus and motivate by doing what is right rather than what is in their self-interest. Xenophon put personal gain aside to lead his fellow Greeks out of a perilous situation in Persia–something very similar to what Lou Gerstner and Anne Mulcahy did in rescuing IBM and Xerox.
• Character matters in leadership. Alexander the Great had exceptional leadership skills that enabled him to conquer the eastern half of the ancient world, but he was ultimately destroyed by his inability to manage his phenomenal success. The corporate world is full of similar examples, such as the now incarcerated Dennis Kozlowski, who, flush with success at the head of his empire, was driven down the highway of self-destruction by an out-of-control ego.
• A great leader is one who challenges the conventional wisdom of the day and is able to think out of the box to pull off amazing feats. Hannibal did something no one in the ancient world thought possible; he crossed the Alps in winter to challenge Rome for control of the ancient world. That same innovative way of thinking enabled Serge Brin and Larry Page of Google to challenge and best two formidable competitors, Microsoft and Yahoo!
• A leader must have ambition to succeed, and Julius Caesar had plenty of it. He set Rome on the path to empire, but his success made him believe he was a living god and blinded him to the dangers that eventually did him in. The parallels with corporate leaders and Wall Street master-of-the-universe types are numerous, but none more salient than Hank Greenberg, who built the AIG insurance empire only to be struck down at the height of his success by the corporate daggers of his directors.
• And finally, leadership is about keeping a sane and modest perspective in the face of success and remaining focused on the fundamentals–the nuts and bolts of making an organization work day in and day out. Augustus saved Rome from dissolution after the assassination of Julius Caesar and ruled it for more than forty years, bringing the empire to the height of its power. What made him successful were personal humility, attention to the mundane details of building and maintaining an infrastructure, and the understanding of limits. Augustus set Rome on a course of prosperity and stability that lasted for centuries, just as Alfred Sloan, using many of the same approaches, built GM into the leviathan that until recently dominated the automotive business.
STEVE FORBES is chairman, CEO, and editor in chief of Forbes Media and an internationally recognized and respected authority in the worlds of finance and corporate leadership. He campaigned twice for the Republican nomination for the presidency. Among his previous books are Flat Tax Revolution: Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS and A New Birth of Freedom.
JOHN PREVAS is an author, an adventurer, and a teacher of classics who has climbed the Alps in search of Hannibal’s pass and followed Alexander’s footsteps through the “terrorist belt” of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. His previous books include Hannibal Crosses the Alps, Xenophon’s March, and Envy of the Gods.
“Power Ambition Glory serves as a remarkable historical guide. It’s both a reference guide to the rise and fall of empires, as well as a fresh look at modern business leaders and how they fit the framework of history.”
—From the foreword by Mayor Rudy Giuliani
“An appealing read that draws a remarkable correlation between great leaders of the ancient world and highly profiled leaders of our time. It is both interesting and instructive to learn of these striking parallels and to realize that extolled leadership at any time often includes similar vision, like deployment and unconventional strategies. It is also interesting to find that notable personal failings of recent times have roots in yesterday. Those who are interested in leadership can profit greatly from reading this novel piece.”
—Larry Bossidy, coauthor of Execution and former CEO of Honeywell
“Power Ambition Glory crystalizes the commonalities of highs and lows of modern and ancient leaders. The book is, in fact, an inspiration in showing how simple tenets such as focusing, setting an example, and embracing diversity lead to true greatness. It is a book that speaks to today’s void. What we lack today, Steve Forbes and John Prevas remind us can be regained again by learning from the lessons of the classic ancient leaders and even some modern CEOs that lived by their examples.”
—Meredith Whitney, CEO and founder of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group
“Steve Forbes knows the importance of history, and this book brings that to our attention in a fascinating and pertinent way. Power Ambition Glory is a wonderful read from beginning to end, and people in all fields will learn and be inspired by it. Steve is one guy everyone should listen to!”
—Donald J. Trump
“Steve Forbes and John Prevas have brilliantly woven together the ancient world and permanent principles of effectiveness to provide guidance for today’s would-be leaders.”