When it comes to leaders, I cannot help thinking about Gaius Julius Ceasar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Caligula. He was seen as the salvation after years of horrible leader, Tiberius. The people of Rome saw Caligula as their savior. His names in themselves promised a brave and successful leader.
It is said that Caligula started off well, but after two years, things were bad. He ruined state finances, killed and tortured his subjects. Of course, we don’t know how much of the stories around Caligula is true, but one of the stories which are thought worthy is the story of Caligula’s military “victories”. Carryingng all those fancy names, Caligula wanted to be seen as a great military leader. He wanted to celebrate a triumph, just like his predecessors. But the problem was that he cared less about being a great leader.
So, he went on a quest for a battle. But Caligula was not a military genius. The northern campaign had to be abandoned. According to Suetonius, the historian, Caligula had no problems claiming that he conquered both Germania and Britannica, but the prisoners displayed during the triumph were gauls, dressed as Germans and Britons.
But a mere triumph with mortal enemies was not enough. He decided to make war with the God Neptune. Having declared himself divine, he had no problems fighting this enemy. The story tells about the soldiers fighting the waves. They of course didn’t believe in Caligula’s delusions, but they all knew that questioning the ceasar meant certain death.
Today, we don’t know what is true of Suetonius story, but there are many lessons to be learnt.
Working with 7 habits, we discuss the core of a leader. A leader is not only a manager but also a person giving direction to others. I’m currently struggling with this in one of my projects. We have too many objectives, and it’s an ongoing task to describe, explain and discuss. Leadership should never be taken for granted. It’s a difficult and ongoing task.
What Caligula learns us is also that the name and the title does not make you a good leader. Yes, people tended to do what ever Caligula told them to. And for too many managers, this seems to be the essence of leadership. But what it can lead to is people fighting the waves with their swords and the celebration of false victories. A team victory should not be like the triumph of Caligula, just a show to fit his ego, based on a false history. A team victory is a victory which is felt in your bones, when you know that YOU have been part of something important and the real objective has been met.
In a couple of months, I hope my team will have that feeling; that we worked against that objective and that we reached it together. It was not easy, but it was all worth it.