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Robert the Bruce - Success and LeadershipRobert the Bruce - Success and Leadership


Robert the Bruce (1274-1329)


Scottish king (pictured right) who led Scotland to independence after defeating the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1341.


Why was he a great leader and successful?


1. Ruthless opportunism

After many years of successful guerrilla warfare against the English in Scotland, he ruthlessly seized his opportunity to become king in 1306 after

  • murdering another rival in a church in Dumfries in 1306.

 Robert the Bruce - Success and Leadership

2. Success from failure

After Robert crowned himself king of Scotland, King Edward I of England, (pictured right ) retaliated by defeating him at Methven in 1306.

Robert was

  • forced into hiding.
  • at the lowest point of his life, even thinking of giving up and leaving Scotland.

But legend says he saw a spider in a cave spin its web on its seventh attempt, prompting him to say:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

Encouraged to fight on, he became a hero, when in 1307 Edward imprisoned his wife and child and killed his three brothers.

Helped by James “Black” Douglas, he:

  • drove the English out of Scotland at the Battle of Bannockburn (see point 3)
  • secured Scotland's independence.

 Robert the Bruce - Success and Leadership

3. The Battle of Bannockburn (1341)

At Bannockburn (pictured right directing the troops in Edmund Leighton's 1909 painting), Robert defeated the English, even though outnumbered three to one.

He won because of:

  • local knowledge (he forced the powerful English cavalry into marshy land and limited space).
  • his leadership – he led from the front and by example.
  • a new infantry formation (arming them with extra long spears rammed into the ground to kill the English cavalry).
  • the final assault of local townsfolk.
  • the possible help of the Knights Templars, fighters from the Crusades.

 Robert the Bruce - Success and Leadership

4. Influence

Together with William Wallace (pictured right), he is Scotland’s biggest hero and symbol of its nationhood.


Key quote on success

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!

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