I love leadership stories and a ton of my belief system has been built through the power of story – the same is likely true for you. Like it or not, we are all affected by the stories we absorb, replay, and come to embody. One of my bolted on beliefs about leadership is the best leaders are reluctant – countless stories have seared this one home and here’s one of them – the story of Cincinnatus.
Way back in the day (458 BC) Cincinnatus was plowing his field when a team of Roman leaders informed him of a kinda strange fact – he had just been elected dictator. Back in the day the term “dictator” didn’t have such a bad rap. The Romans only played the d card during crisis and the term was a tight 6 months. So, Cincinnatus dropped his plow, grabbed his toga (no joke) and off to Rome he went. His first act was to call up every able man to fight the Aequi. He then led the army into battle. He led them himself. From the front. He did his duty for Rome eventho he was happy as a clam just days prior out doing his thing on the farm. He put his country above his comfort.
History records a rapid victory for Rome. Cincinnatus and company defeat the enemy forces in a mere fifteen days. Cincinnatus is hailed a conquering hero and all of Rome celebrates him. He has all the power in the world, so to speak. He’s been made dictator and has another 5.5 months of unbridled authority. So, what’s he do? Build a few monuments, carry off some serious gold, do the old grapes and fan thing for day upon dreamy day? Nope. None of it. He resigns. Quits.
Cincinnatus, you see, was a reluctant leader. Once his job was done he returned to his plow and led his small team back on the farm, where he belonged. So, next time you make the trek down to Cincy for a game, brew, or chili dog, remember that this city bears it’s name in remembrance of a farmer, turned dictator, turned farmer again. A stud who knew a thing or two about power – it should only be used in reference to boats and weight lifting. Good…