wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Alexander the Great Leadershipalexander the great leadership


Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)


Born in Macedonia (north of Greece) and taught by Aristotle, his brilliant military victories made him the world’s most powerful man and extended his empire to Persia (now Iran and Iraq), Turkey, Egypt and northwest India.

Alexander (pictured right) became King of Macedonia at the age of 20 on the death of his father, Philip.


Why was he a great leader?

 Alexander the Great

1. Caring for his troops

Like Napoleon (pictured right) he believed the morale of his men was most important. They were devoted to him.

Marching back from India to Persia and dying from thirst, a little water was found. He refused to drink it to show everybody that his life was no more valuable than each of his men’s.

He made sure that his troops were highly trained and disciplined.

His cavalrymen skilfully used their knees to manoeuvre their horses, when neither stirrups nor hooves had been invented.


2. Leading by example

He inspired his troops through:

  • leading from the front.
  • making himself seen by his troops - even when seriously wounded during an attack in India.
  • his courage, willpower and youthful exuberance (he loved the thrill of battle).


3. Strategy, speed and innovation


  • attacked the enemy at its weakest points.  
  • skilfully used his cavalry to finish off the enemy after his artillery and foot soldiers had weakened them.
  • made sure that he could never be attacked from the rear. alexander the great leadership
  • took his enemies by surprise with his army’s extraordinary speed like at the Battle of the River Granicus in 334 BC (pictured right). The next year he covered 300 miles in just 12 days!

He was also highly innovative -his innovations included:

  • a revolutionary second line of defence in his victory against Persia at Gaugamela in 331 BC.
  • an inventive approach to siege warfare.
  • new weapons like his 300 metre range giant crossbow.


4. Ruthlessness

He was always frightened that the local people in his empire would rebel, and so he ruled by fear.

He :

  • crucified 2,000 prisoners after his seven month siege of Tyre (now in Lebanon) in 332 BC. 
  • sadistically killed Gaza’s leader by dragging him around the city tied to a chariot in 335 BC.


5. LearningAlexander the Great

He learned from

  • his mistakes (at first he sent captured Persian soldiers to work in his mines but, to avoid this hard labour, they fought to the death in battle against him. So he then gave them the irresistible offer of joining his army).
  • the example of his father, Philip (pictured right, who was also a great general and strict disciplinarian).


6. Adaptability

He coped brilliantly with different political and military situations such as:

  • local rebellions. 
  • mountainous terrain.
  • guerrilla warfare (particularly in Persia).


7. Image consciousAlexander the Great

He used symbolic gestures to show his intentions.

Famously he untied the Gordian knot, which by legend showed he would rule all Asia.

When he met Diogenes, the Greek philosopher (their meeting is pictured right), in Athens, he said to portray himself as an intellectual leader:

“If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes”.


8. Luck

He was lucky inheriting his father’s superb army and the great wealth from his gold and silver mines.

One of his chief rivals, a Persian general, also died just before he became king.


Alexander the Great

9. Support and friendship

He was closest to his childhood and lifelong friend, and cavalry commander, Hephaestion (pictured with Alexander on the left).

Alexander valued friendship much more highly than sex!


10. Global but local

He achieved world domination, but:

  • respected the local customs of each country in his empire.
  • invited foreign troops into his army, despite opposition from his native Macedonians.
  • married the Persian king’s daughter to secure his support.


Key quote on leadership

An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.


Key quote on corporate culture

Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.


Key quote on ethics and religion

In faith and hope the world will disagree but all mankind’s concern is charity.


Key quotes on success

I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion.

Nothing is impossible to him who will try.





Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books