PMI Bangalore Chapter


PM Essence

Leadership Lessions from Alexander the Great

                                                                 -Raghavan Parthasarathy
The saying in the picture clearly shows Alexander’s views on leadership. He is clearly stating the importance of a leader here.

We all are taught that Mission and Vision are important and basically Alexander the great and his soldiers knew their mission and Alexander too clearly communicated his vision (perhaps he called it a dream to go after). To dream and to perform great came naturally to him and this puts him as a great leader of all times. He also inspired his men and empowered them with the much needed passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to perform in the same way. He was also adaptable as seen by his use of elephants in battles. Apart from that, he also was a very confident and resourceful person.


Alexander was born in Pella, the Macedonian capital, at about the time his father, Philip, became the king of Macedonia. Philip’s expansion of the kingdom, an unfolding saga of glory and excitement, was Alexander’s boyhood.



I did some search and found the qualities of a good leader online and then analyzed what Alexander possessed or lacked. But sticking to Alexander, it perhaps mattered that his tutor was the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He perhaps got the vision from his father Philip of Macedon who was assassinated. It is recorded that Philip said “My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambition. Macedon is too small for you.” He was first brought up by his father and his mother Olympias princess of Epirus. At the age of 7, he learnt the crafts of a warrior (such as sword fighting, horse riding, physical exercises fit for a warrior) through Leonidas, a relative of his mother. At the same time, Aristotle taught him rhetoric, language and stimulated his interest in mathematics, science and philosophy. At the age of 13, Lysimachus taught him the cultural aspects of the world, appreciating fine arts like drama, poetry and music. He also learnt to play the lyre. This tells us that Alexander was a knowledgeable and cultured man.


He also was a very ambitious man. His one worry as his father conquered was that nothing would be left for him. Of course, there is lot of debate.

Alexander wanted to unite the known world at that time. He came to power in 336 BC and in a war lasting three years, defeated Persia. He spent the 12 years in warfare travelling 22,000 miles up to the Indus river in India (he died in 326 BC, and he was born in 356 BC). He changed history more than any other one person and is also one of the most famous leaders of all time. In history, he is considered most successful world leader, most celebrated conqueror, warrior, and a great legend. His accomplishments were greater than any before or after him. He was a precocious child and this along with his mother’s influence made it easy for him to want to surpass others.


The map shows the countries he conquered and the route he followed. For any other Europeans to travel eastwards farther than Alexander had, would take many centuries. His first move after his father died was to put down therebelby the Greeks. Even before that, Alexander subjugated the Thracian tribe (in what is now Bulgaria) and established his first city – Alexandropolis.

 All this he did in a short lifespan of 32 years!!


The Greek city states saw Philip’s death as an opportunity. But Alexander showed his talent as a strategist. He destroyed Thebes, one of the rebelling cities and sold all the inhabitants as slaves. He even borrowed money to pay his soldiers to send back home. He travelled thousands of miles, through deserts and cold and icy Himalayas, and fought some 70 wars without losing once.


Looking online I found traits with supporting examples. This list is copied here –

• Leadership Lesson #1: Have An action orientation

• Leadership Lesson # 2: Care for your people

• Lesson # 3: Be seen caring for your people

• Leadership Lesson # 4: Dare to innovate!

• Lesson # 5: Lead by personal example

• Lesson # 6: Live your values

• Lesson # 7: Reward your people


There was another list I saw – Honesty, Ability to Delegate, Communication, Sense of Humor, Confidence, Commitment, Positive Attitude, Creativity, Intuition and Ability to Inspire. I feel his personality was such that his vision was communicated in a manner where it became a common vision of his army. He also cared for his people. When he saw elephants used in battles, and saw the advantages, he too employed. He was also innovative.


It is also said that he wanted to share a helmet of water when he and his army were tormented with thirst. From the lists there seem to be qualities not demonstrated or at least not recorded in history. One weakness we probably can say was his expectation from his army. They actually ended his conquest by refusing to move with him forward, but wanted a break and go back home. Perhaps my friends can add more traits, and I will be thankful and I especially thank Konstantinos Kontzialis & Grigorios Nikolopoulos for pointing out present locations.