Spartan Leadership At a Glance
What can we learn from Spartan leadership? This kind of leadership might offer some insight into what it takes to be an effective leader, inspire employees and create a recognizable brand.
The Spartan Army dominated Ancient Greece, thanks to their effective leadership.
WarningAnd it wasn’t because there was something in the water in Sparta that made their soldiers grow crazy strong, but because they worked together as a team.
Sparta was a society in Ancient Greece known for their kickass warriors.
At the height of their power (between the sixth and fourth centuries BC), the Spartans were one of the most feared military forces in the Greek world.
The Spartans were widely admired but nowhere imitated for their courage, commitment and unrelenting spirit.
ImportantThey were well-trained warriors that execute with precision and discipline. Against unimaginable odds, they stood their ground and fought for their beliefs.
Their living conditions were harder than the others, and their code of honor was harder than anyone else.
Spartan men devoted their lives to military service, and lived communally well into adulthood. A Spartan was taught that loyalty to the state came before everything else, including one’s family.
Their inspirational leader, Spartan King Leonidas, shows a great example for what makes a leader.
A leader is someone others willingly follow. When you are seen as a leader there is great responsibility that goes with this new stature.
Leaders must often make tough decisions. They don’t watch safely from the rear.
Leonidas, King of the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae is presented as that leader who will do everything that his army will do. He leads into battle.
Inaction is often seen as a debilitating weakness of a leader. Are you ready for battle?
So, how can you distinguish the real leaders from the fake leaders? What can you learn from Spartan leadership style? Following are the five leadership lessons I have inferred from Spartan warrior society.
Bred For Battle
Unlike such Greek city-states as Athens, a center for the arts, learning and philosophy, Sparta was centered on a warrior culture.
Male Spartan citizens were allowed only one occupation: soldier.
WarningIndoctrination into this lifestyle began early. Spartan boys started their military training at age 7, when they left home and entered the compulsory education system, the Agoge, which emphasized obedience, endurance, courage and self-control.
The Spartans’ constant military discipline made them skilled at the ancient Greek style of fighting in a phalanx formation.
ImportantIn the phalanx, the army worked as a unit in a close, deep formation, and made coordinated mass maneuvers. No one soldier was considered superior to another.
At age 20, Spartan males became full-time soldiers, and remained on active duty until age 60.
Warrior leadership enlists shame, not only as a counter to fear but as a goad to honor.
The warrior advancing into battle is more afraid of disgrace in the eyes of his brothers than he is of the spears and lances of the enemy.
Honor came from right action instead of favorable outcome.
WarningIt sounds brutal but honor pushed soldiers to do what they didn’t think they could. In the city, reputation was staked on honor. In the battlefield, surrender was the ultimate disgrace.
If there was one rule Spartan soldiers knew, it was to never give up.
Yielding in battle was equated to cowardice. If a Spartan did surrender or at any point voluntarily gave up in a fight, they’d be shamed in such extremes that they’d contemplate – and often commit – suicide.
Spartan Leadership has been built upon strong core beliefs and shared values as mentioned below:
Unity Makes Strength
Having trust within your team is incredibly important! It either makes or breaks your ability to work together successfully. The Spartans undoubtedly knew this to be true.
In Ancient Greece, there was a tradition known as Syssitia and part of that would emphasize men dining together.
ImportantThe idea was those who trained together, fought together and broke bread together would build the strongest bonds.
What we can learn here it to disconnect from tech and reconnect with each other when we’re dining.
WarningNowadays, we’ve become more and more disconnected at the dinner table. We bond less and less face-to-face and spend more time plugged into the internet.
Building trust doesn’t happen overnight but the effort is well worth it.
Taking the time establish and build trust within your team will greatly improve their overall workplace engagement and satisfaction.
Although Spartan King Leonidas was a warrior, he treated his family and friends as equals.
His wife was a true partner, and he was smart enough to solicit her advice when it came to business matters. He also spent quality time with his six-year-old son, teaching him how to fight.
“Fight for this alone: the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him,” said Spartan soldier Dienekes.
When Spartan leaders suit up and go to their day job–vanquishing bloodthirsty enemies with his spear and shield–they are focused on what’s best for the business and their employees; I mean, the kingdom and his soldiers.
A team feels secured when a leader is with them and among them, supporting and motivating them.
As a leader, Spartan King Leonidas understood the importance of putting the well-being of his troops before his own in order to ensure the freedom of Greece.
For a perfect leader the team will give their best.
ImportantThe Spartan King leading and being with the army shows a sense of humbleness, a sense of servant leadership in spite of the fact the Spartan army was losing the war.
Life will always have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but when you have support from your team they will always try to make you smile and make it a little less bearable.
Foster a Culture of Involvement
The Spartans had a grim but effective process for making sure their society only contained healthy children. Their organization only accepted the best boys, who were trained and molded into effective killing machines.
Only men with the courage and self-confidence to appreciate women as equals could be considered men at all.
There’s a lot of talk about toxic masculinity these days, and in the ancient world such behaviour was not just common but the norm. It sounds gruesome, but it’s handy when you have to protect your community from a foe that aims to crush you.
A strong company culture is more important today than ever before!
ImportantCompany culture defines the environment in which employees work. It includes a variety of elements, such as: work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.
It comes as no surprise that the kickass team of Spartans had their own version of company culture: a strict code of honor.
WarningSpartans also and a very clear code of dishonor, which lead to being labeled an outcast and public humiliation via special clothing: failure to complete the rigorous training, or deserting during battle.
I’m not suggesting your team should necessarily have a code of dishonor but it is important to not only discuss the values you want to uphold but also the ones you will not tolerate.
A leader without a vision will have challenges leading the team. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
ImportantA smart leader has a plan, has a strategy in place which aligns to the goals of the organization, has set milestones, where he is able to hold hands with his team and lead them.
True leaders understand that in order to create a positive culture for their organization, they must lead by example and display the behaviors they want to see exercised by their staff.
Employees look to their superiors for guidance, motivation, and inspiration, and are far more likely to follow the leaders they believe practice what they preach.
When you know what your goals as a leader are, your work ethic and passion are stronger.
Others catch on to that and work together to back your vision, which in turn creates a strong culture of leadership.
Build Your Own Brand
Nearly all historical events have both heroes as well as villains. In the Battle of Thermopylae Spartan King Leonidas and his brave 300 were the heroes — and Ephialtes of Trachis, the vile traitor who betrayed the Spartan army, served as the villain.
The name of the King of Sparta became synonymous with bravery and devotion, while that of Ephialtes came to be the ultimate symbol of treason and the baser instincts.
Spartan King Leonidas appreciates that even if he and his 300 men don’t win this particular battle, educating the public about the company will help the Spartan brand endure long after he is gone.
Keep in mind that there is power in appearance.
ImportantSpartan men not only had the training to back up their reputation, they enhanced that reputation — and their efficacy on the battlefield — by cultivating an external appearance that matched their internal prowess.
Spartan King Leonidas was an early marketer, fully understanding the power of words and images.
WarningWhen he and his men literally build a wall of corpses they know their enemy will see, it’s an advertising message to the rest of the Persian soldiers that come their way: The Spartans are a company of men you don’t want to encounter.
There is more — the Spartan army had a pre-battle pump-up song!
On the morning of battle, Spartan men would chant the war song, “Song of Castor”. Only then, keeping time with the steady rhythm of the music, would the Spartan army, raise their lances and begin their advance into battle.
Pump-up songs have the power to instantly boost your mood, creativity, and ability to get work done!
Your leadership reputation is your most valuable asset. A strong reputation makes it easier to earn respect from your peers and to advance your career goals.
A personal brand is the total experience of the relationship others have with who you are and what you stand for as a leader — and how you live your personal brand each and every day regardless of the circumstances.
Personal branding is the process of defining a leadership identity that describes what you can be depended on to deliver.
ImportantPersonal branding is about solidifying your leadership value proposition and corresponding narrative that tells the story about your unique features and benefits.
This is how the best leaders control their leadership reputation.
They break themselves apart and put themselves back together again with greater clarity of purpose and responsibility to those they serve.
Less Is More
The Spartans were (in)famous for their culture of silence. Ancient “Laconophyles” collected examples of Spartan speech all characterized by pithiness, and some of them stress the – evidently unusual – ability of Spartan youth to hold their tongues except when directly addressed.
WarningThe Spartans understood the Athenians’ fetishism of art, philosophy and literature, but dismissed them as trivial vanities with little practical application.
The “less is more” principle also governed the language of the Spartans, who took a minimalist approach to speech which today we still refer to as “Laconic.”
The ideal was to speak only when one had something important to say, and then only in short, terse bursts, pithy sayings, and the sharp, clever replies that characterized Laconic wit.
The Spartans honed their words until they were as sharp as their spears — and just as sure to find their mark.
A great example is Spartan King Leonidas’ response to the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. When the King of the Persians demanded the Spartans turn over their weapons, Leonidas replied “Molon labe” or “Come and take them.”
Cultivate a reputation for being “a man of few words” and soon you’ll find that your words carry more weight.
ImportantEconomy of language is extremely important to being heard. Reduce the message if you have to; you can always follow up with details.
For Spartan warriors, it was a field expedient way of speaking — you want to get straight to the point when yelling commands in the chaos of combat.
Consider that when it comes to leadership, there are times when it is more effective to choose silence over speaking up with your words.
The silence I am referring to is not to be confused, however, with the silence used for the purpose of actively ignoring someone or as a way to shun or silence them. Using silence as an act of leadership is always for the purpose of making a difference.
As leaders, we mistakenly think the more words we use, the more clear the explanation.
ImportantThe space between sentences will work for you. The best speakers in the world have meaningful pauses at the right time. You are allowing your audience to think about and digest your last point.
The fire hydrant approach simply never get the job done!
What we can learn from the Spartan leadership is to be a little more determined through to the finish line in pursuit of our goals, according to our vision and our own ethical views.
Every team needs a ‘Code of Honor’.
The legend of Sparta endures and inspires for a simple reason: Spartans were the masters of their craft, unparalleled in training, dedication, and teamwork.
Mental Toughness comes in all sizes and shapes and is tightly coupled with leadership.
It’s that leader that has no quit. It’s that leader who pushes through when it looks really bleak and there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel.
Leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
WarningDifferent people respond to different tactics; it’s your job as the leader to figure out how to manage each individual so that they can achieve their full potential.
Your character as a leader, first and foremost, is the most important foundation.
ImportantBeing a leader, you have responsibility in handling and impacting people’s life. Successful leaders balance pride with humility: absolute pride in performance; total humility before the magnitude of the task.
Stepping up and doing the right things at the right time helps you and your team to be motivated and successful.
What is your team or your squad known for? Maybe more importantly, what do you want your team to be known for? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!