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Don’t fiddle while your city burns

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Sure, barbarians scaled the walls. But they didn’t cause the fall of Rome; leadership failure did the trick.

Most sobering of all, the mistakes Roman leaders made can destroy your career and organization, too. Examples:
  • Overreliance on dead-end economic policies. The riches Rome reaped from its conquests served only to finance still more conquests. When Rome ran out of new regions to invade, the economic base vanished.

    Leadership lesson: You have to create something of value. If your economic growth comes from nothing but deal-making and acquisitions, you’re inviting the barbarians in.

  • Leadership plagued by cruelty, extravagance and lack of self-control. Government became bloated and ineffectual through bribery and corruption.

  • Depletion of critical resources. Every bit of ore was mined, every workable acre of farmland was overworked and eroded, and people were enslaved.

    Leadership lesson: Cultivate critical resources instead of exhausting them.
— Adapted from The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph A. Tainter, Cambridge University Press.

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