Ancient history yields modern management lessons

"Alfred Sloan, who made General Motors a behemoth in the auto industry and a corporation admired for its longevity, and Augustus were kindred spirits."

Forbes and Prevas are strongest in their emphasis on character as the bedrock of leadership. Great as they were, Alexander and Caesar fail the test of character, as do a raft of corporate CEOs.

"When it came to ego, (Vivendi's Jean-Marie) Messier's was the equal of Alexander's," they write.

In the entire history of warfare, no man has ever matched the achievements of Alexander. Yet, he was not a man to go drinking with on a Saturday night.

As for Caesar, the authors depict him as a schemer who built a reputation through feat of arms to enable him to dominate the Roman political scene. In the end, Caesar was assassinated, while Alexander, according to the authors, was poisoned, though what killed him is still open to debate.

"In today's corporate world, leaders are dispatched by less gruesome means than being murdered ... but there are many examples of CEOs who, like Julius Caesar and Alexander, achieve great things only to be brought down by their own hubris."

For executives looking for help in climbing the corporate ladder, there is much to commend this book, even if the biographical profiles provide far more detail than is needed for a management primer.

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