Monday, May 12, 2014

What I've Been Reading

By putting down Machiavelli and taking up Cyrus, you can discover the only genuine approach to leadership. Xenophon’s advice is always wise and never vicious, not even in the context of war. Thus we remember Socrates’s disciple as a great man, and we elevate his calm, collected Cyrus— not Machiavelli’s paranoid prince— to the title of ideal leader.

Xenophon's Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War by Xenophon (edited by Larry Hedrick). One the best leadership books I have read in a long time.

There is a deep— and usually frustrated— desire in the heart of everyone to act with benevolence rather than selfishness, and one fine instance of generosity can inspire dozens more. I experienced over and again how my own temperance made others more temperate. When they perceived moderation and self-control in the actions of their leader, my subjects were eager to curb their own antisocial instincts.

I made my people understand the crucial difference between modesty and self-control. The modest person, I told them, will do nothing blameworthy in the light of day, but a true paragon of self-control— which we all should strive to be— avoids unworthy actions even in the deepest secrecy of his private life. Self-restraint would take root in my friends if they recognized me as a leader who wasn’t distracted from the pursuit of virtue by the pleasure of the moment— a leader who chose hard work before all else.

Thus I established a stately court, where all my friends showed respect to each other and cultivated courtesy until it bloomed into perfect harmony. In my palace I never heard harsh words of anger or a burst of scornful laughter.


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