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Lessons in Leadership from the movie Gladiator, Part 3 of 3


Applying these leadership characteristics from the movie Gladiator adds a universal depth to our challenging world of business. The time is right for a more “heroic” style of leadership. After all, we live in a capitalistic society; competition is everywhere and the more forceful the leaders, the more likely success will be realized. There are several key points to take from this powerful movie:

Gladiators have a mission for which they feel true passion. Call it a purpose, a drive, a calling; good leaders have a defining mission in life. This mission, above all other traits, separates managers from leaders. In Gladiator, Maximus lived for the mission of killing the evil Commodus and restoring Rome to the values that made her great.

Gladiators create a vision. Having and communicating a clear picture of a future goal WILL lead to its achievement. Maximus helped his fellow gladiators believe that they could defeat their enemies and achieve freedom. Dare to believe.

Gladiators lead from the front; they don’t dictate from the back. In the movie, both when Maximus was a general and a gladiator, he fought up front where the firestorm was heaviest. So does a good business leader. Working “in the trenches” shows that you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty, breeding respect from all who follow.

Gladiators know there is strength in teams. While the gladiator leader has the skills and ability to draw people together, they do not monopolize the spotlight. They draw from the strength of others, just as Maximus did in various victories realized in the coliseum.

Gladiators are risk takers. They adapt to the situation and take risks in order to overcome the odds. Occasionally, a company needs to push outside the comfort boundaries in order to gain an edge, and this requires the ability to take risks.

Gladiators remain calm in the face of a crisis. Maximus had to think on his feet and refused to give in to terror and panic. He faced his enemies with a presence of mind and an indomitable focus. Business leaders must do the same. Displaying a quiet confidence in the face of adversity will gain ample respect from employees, managers, and even competitors. It’s about gaining that edge.

Gladiators prepare for battle around the clock. A Roman gladiator was a fighting machine; in order to stay sharp, he needed to be ready at a moment’s notice for the next battle. A good leader must be able to adapt in order to stay relevant in these changing times. What worked a decade ago, might not be effective today.

Gladiators are teachers and mentors. Maximus taught his fellow gladiators necessary fighting skills, combat techniques, and demonstrated required abilities, often by example. So, too, should business leaders in order to maintain success.


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