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Hadrian, a leader for the ages

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in Best-Practices Leadership,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers

The Roman emperor Hadrian, who ruled just after 100 A.D., is a model for leaders to this day.

Examples of his good governance:

Wisdom: Hadrian was well regarded by the Roman army, not for war but for moderation, patrolling his existing empire instead of making new conquests. He recruited conquered peoples to help govern, and worked to maintain the morale and efficiency of the army.

Wherever he traveled, Hadrian tried to resolve local disputes and speed along building projects. He is most remembered for Hadrian’s Wall, a stone and turf barricade stretching east to west between England and Scotland.

Like similar boundaries in Germany and Africa, the wall is thought to have been not so much a barrier to keep barbarians out, but as a boundary marking the edge of the empire. It was a baseline from which to project Roman power, collect tolls and regulate trade. Building it also kept the troops out of trouble.

Hadrian’s rule wasn’t marked by the murder and intrigue that characterized so many other emperors. Instead, he was greatly influenced by the benign leadership of his adoptive parents: the emperor Trajan and his wife, Pompeia Plotina—who devoted herself to Hadrian.

Tolerance: Hadrian was fascinated with philosophies and religions, particularly Greek ones. He also became popular with the Jews for his fairness, and his tolerance made him a favorite with defenders of Christianity.

Modesty: Hadrian made a practice of not having his name carved on buildings he commissioned, although he made an exception for a temple of Trajan and Plotina.

Legacy: We might also judge Hadrian by both his role models and by the emperors who followed him. Besides his predecessor Trajan, his main role model was Numa Pompilius, one of Rome’s first rulers, known for his peace-loving ways.

Hadrian’s immediate successor, Antoninus Pius, maintained Hadrian’s policies and conducted one of the most peaceful reigns in the history of the Roman Empire. His next successor, Marcus Aurelius, had been nicknamed “Truest” by Hadrian and much later was known as the last of the “five good emperors.”

— Adapted from Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome, Anthony Everitt, Random House.

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