Tuesday, August 4, 2009


This is what I'm reading right now - or rather, this is what I'm RE-reading - I first read this EXCELLENT treatise on Leadership back in the early 90's. I still soldier by the tenets I gleaned from it then. - S.L.

ATTILA (406-53), King of the Huns (433-453 A.D.)
Attila (called Etzel by the Germans or Ethele in Hungarians, was a member of the ruling family of the Huns, a nomadic Asian people who spread from the Caspian steppes throughout the Roman Empire in search of global conquest. By AD 432, the Huns had gained so much power that they were receiving a large annual tribute from Rome.

By AD 451, Attila's army consisted of 700,000 warriors, and was intent on nothing less than ransacking Rome itself. They had earlier moved against the Chinese Empire but were turned away. The Huns had a reputation for cruelty and barbarism that was not undeserved. They ate their meat raw (often human flesh), had little use for virgins, and possessed a strong appetite for murder and mayhem. No one could look Attila in the eyes, not even any of his 400 wives.

(My kind of guy! - S.L.)


#1: YOU MUST WANT TO BE IN CHARGE - You've got to be ruthlessly ambitious. Never be bored, disinterested, or cowardly in any way about always strengthening your position. Good leaders are lustful leaders. Power is like sex, but don't appear overeager, just extremely determined to succeed under any circumstances, fair or unfair. (This will inspire confidence in those you lead).

#2: ALWAYS APPEAR AS THE ONE IN CHARGE - Dress appropriately for your high station in life. Own the biggest horse and sword. Be first in everything, but never appear pompous. (Be marked with armament that distinguishes you from the masses).

#3: MAKE OTHERS ADAPT TO YOUR "CUSTOMS" - Make people do things your way, not their way. Make them adjust or adapt to you. Express this as the way things are going to be from now on, or pretend it's the way things have always been. Refuse to acknowledge any other way of doing things other than the way you do things. (This will extract tribute and praise from those you lead).

- Terminate people at the first sign of disrespect for the common good, but by no means stifle individualism or punish the innocent who don't know the common good. Definitely, do not allow uncontrolled celebration. Pillaging and looting are only fun if done in the name of nationalism. (Discipline builds morale).

#5: NEVER TOLERATE ANYONE WITH THEIR OWN AMBITIONS - People who are "cunning" are dangerous, especially new people who have just joined the organization. Be vigilant about how people lose their ambition and become team players; that is the pattern you want everyone to follow. Never reward anyone for what is a common effort. (The spirit of unity must prevail).

#6: PERPETUATE A LEGEND OR REPUTATION FOR YOURSELF - Find out whatever it is that your worst enemy calls you, and try hard to live up to it, with a passion. This will have its advantages to you whenever you need to use your fury and power, and it will accumulate minor privileges to you along the way. (You are your reputation).

- Do not consider all opponents, or everyone you argue with, as enemies. These are accidental enemies. Choose your enemies with purpose. They may be people you have friendly relations with, and in fact, you should let them think of you as a friend, all the while never telling them anything, and lulling them into a state of complacence and acting prematurely. (Do not make enemies unless you mean it).

#8: EXPECT CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT - You must encourage learning and innovation among those you lead. This can be done in several ways, by creating competitions among the people. Never allow them to wander aimlessly. Regularly upgrade your standards of performance. (This fulfills most of a leader's duties).

#9: USE TIMING IN MAKING DECISIONS - Never rush a decision, although sometimes you have to because the moment is ripe or an omen exists. It's better to use timing, to find the obscure places and critical elements needed to ensure you always make the right decision. This way, you ensure that even a less-than-perfect decision is followed. (Time your decisions).

#10: EXPLOIT THE DESIRE TO ENJOY THE SPOILS OF WAR - Harness your peoples' desires for short-term gains. Grant small rewards for light tasks. Reserve heaps of booty for other times, and be generous with items that hold a value to yourself. (Never underestimate the ability to buy obedience).

#11: ONLY ENGAGE IN WARS YOU CAN WIN - Use diplomacy, negotiation, or other techniques of conflict in battles you cannot win. When in a political war, always keep an eye to your rear. When in an external war, go all out. (Waging war is a natural condition).

Attila, Scourge of God

1 comment:

  1. When I was XO on a ship, I'd copy one on "Memo from the XO" paper and thumbtack it to the cork board on door every few days. I found out people were actually reading them (kept my door open most of the day (and night)) because I'd be walking around and some E-3 or E-4 would quietly let me know I'd had the same one up for a few days...:)