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Lean, mean Alexander the Great

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Alexander the Great became one of the most accomplished generals in history, creating a huge empire through a mix of intelligence, humanity and courage.

Mobility is one of the most important military tactics, and Alexander won several battles through speed. But by the time he’d conquered Persia and was headed toward Afghanistan, his army had amassed so much plunder that it needed a whole extra wagon train just to carry the loot.

The story goes that Alexander’s soldiers were so overburdened that the army’s rear guard was still decamping even as its vanguard struck a new camp. The army had slowed down.

Alexander called everybody together and spoke compellingly about the importance of mobility. He then set his own plunder on fire, sparing only the quartermaster’s supplies, pay and ambulances. He owned the best stuff, of course, and it went up in flames first. Then he asked his men to do the same. They did and regained their speed from the ashes.

Business lesson: Usually, organizations deal with loss of mobility by adding capacity:  more transport, more power, more people, more hours. Alexander solved his mobility problem by stripping away excess baggage and returning to the core of his strength: his lean, mean fighting machine.

— Adapted from The Wisdom of Alexander the Great, Lance B. Kurke, Amacom.

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