How Modern Leadership Styles Take Cues from The Fabulous Roman Emperors? Harvard Professors Explain!


All roads lead to Rome! It is a title of a lesson on leadership created by Harvard Business professors, Frances Frei and Emma Dench.

Both academics dig deeper in historical readings on Roman and Greek to reveal that the contents have influenced the modern leadership styles.

Modern leadership styles get inspirations from the Roman emperors. Why Rome?

The lesson focused on Rome as an empire that ruled for more than 700 years. The Romans were known for their organized structures and dynamic power. According to the course published at Harvard Business School catalog, the academics list the differences between today's leadership styles and historical writings from Augustus, Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius.

There are in fact, many other imperial societies that shape modern leadership styles but the Roman Empire has something special since it is an essential Europe history and Americans are so familiar with it.

Rome is a good focus when trying to explore modern leadership. According to Dench, the leadership style of the Romans involved around mortality, mercy, power and standard rules.

For instance, the Romans had this type of 'culture' that when a leader did not get it right, he'd be killed. Compared to the modern leadership style, students found it may not be that serious threat but more like being fired by the director.

Frei gave another example from 'Lean In' - a book written by Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg where she reflects on her husband's death. It makes Frei to think of Marcus Aurelius with his meditations - which was not intended for the public to know. Speaking to the Forbes, the professor regarded Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and the master of universe. She's fascinated by his thinking and the way he saw the world through his writings. And also, Plutarch's reading on how his Greek fellows must deal with 'not being an imperial superpower anymore'.

Frei made an example of how customers would love a brand or product but the feeling may be gone. She said that things do not last forever. This makes a leader thinks of what to do next? Frei noted some leadership actions such as being reactive or proactive.

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