Pericles was a stud leader back in the day. He’s the dude who entered public life in Athens around 463 BC and, although he came from aristocratic roots, was very much friend of the oarsmen, farmer, and the craftsman who were the pride of ancient Athens. He led the city state to great surplus and unprecedented prosperity. Unlike his predecessors, he didn’t use the surplus to buy political favors. Instead, he initiated a massive public building project and commissioned the cities best craftsmen to build like banshees. So they got busy. Over the next decades he built all sorts of temples, theaters, concert halls, and the mighty (still standing) Parthenon and statue of Athena – Goddess of wisdom. He led Athens through their golden years that history recalls as the Periclean golden age. He was the man, adored, adorned, and much admired. He thought this had bought him the loyalty of his people. It. Had. Not….
Sparta came calling in 432 BC and demanded surrender from it’s rival. Pericles led them through this protracted war using reason and stall tactics quite strategically. He chose a defensive strategy against a superior foe. It was working until a plague strikes and even Pericles finds himself at deaths door. In his weakened state, his team flips at a moments notice. Instead of honoring him and his ways, they blame him for their fate. He goes from enamored to persona non grata, in an instant.
Leader, I hope you are listening. You most likely think your team is loyal and believe they’ve got your back. You most likely believe that this team you’ve taken to dizzying heights will stick with you through the upcoming downturn. You most likely trust that those you’ve done so much for will appreciate your efforts and remain loyal through thin as they benefited through the thick. You would be wrong. Study history and you’ll see Pericles prosperity didn’t buy him much, nor will it buy you much either. Humans are not, by their very nature, loyal to leaders. Human nature is self centered and other controlling, remember. Human nature is to stick it to the man whenever it seems in their self interest to do so. If you’re a leader accept this truth. Trust first. Understand you will be popular during prosperity and a lone when times get tough and profits thin. Fact.
Pericles was a stud and dropped like a dud in a New York minute. You will be too. So, pay attention to Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and surround yourself with men and women who are competent and of good character. Choose your inner circle like your life depends upon it, because it does. Expect sabotage from within. Do not be surprised when you misjudge character. Learn. Tighten the circle of trust when times are good. Fight the tendency to let the good times tempt you into running fast and loose. Stay lean instead. Remember, your team has a short memory. Find a few loyal teammates and make sure you have their back. Leadership is more responsibility than it is privilege. Fact. Leading anything is real, hard, work and laced with sabotage from the very humans you led to surplus. Inspect what you expect, leader. Assume less. Trust but verify. Don’t get caught in the emotional high of your pedestal and prosperity. Athena would call that foolish. Build wisdom, leader. Build wisdom. Kinda sucks to lead, doesn’t it? Lead, anyway. Good.
Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…