Tag Archives: Leadership

Overcoming Leadership Challenges – Part 2 : Current Times

Second part. Read the first part here.

There are several successful leaders from recent times that practiced Hannibal-like leadership style; A.P. Giannini is one of them – the man who created the largest bank in the United States, the Bank of America. Like Hannibal, Giannini started working at an early age and taught himself the ropes of the business. He believed in the unconventional ways of running banks such as lending loans to immigrants when no one else did. In addition, he was also very innovative and quickly adapted to situations. For example, when fires began to spread to cities from the destructive earthquake many banks saved their deposits in steel vaults for protection. However, anticipating the damage fire would have on steel, Giannini knew it would take weeks before they will be able to open the vault. So unlike other bankers, Giannini decided to removed the gold and securities from his vaults before and was immediately able lend loans to thousands of people who suffered from the earthquake. In addition, while other banks were struggling to open their vaults, Giannini learned the importance of having geographical presents of banks. This resulted in purchases of small banks in different states and made Bank of American the first bank to cross state lines. Lastly, like Hannibal, Giannini was not in it for the money; each year he only paid himself $50,000 and toward the end of his career when he was awarded $1.5 million bonus, he donated it to University of California.

Throughout his lifetime, Hannibal had to make numerous difficult decisions in times of crisis and motivated soldiers to continue their support while together achieving that common goal. Likewise, Lee Iacocca is an inspiring individual who saved the desperate Chrysler Corporation. Before joining Chrysler in 1978, Iacocca was president at Ford Motor Company and developed popular models like Mustang. However, the CEO of Ford did not like Iacocca and despite all of Iacocca’s accomplishments for the company he refused to make him the CEO; shortly after which Iacocca was let-go from Ford.

At the same time, Chrysler was facing tremendous amount of challenges and was quickly reaching complete shutdown. Iacocca accepted Chrysler’s offer for the CEO position and agreed to not take any compensation unless the company got back up on its feet. Iacocca understood the severity of the situation however, like Hannibal was driven to destroy Rome, Iacocca ultimately wanted to prove Ford wrong for letting him go. To bring the company around, Iacocca had to persuade the federal government to lend loans to Chrysler arguing that the country could not afford for such a huge domestic auto manufacture to fail. The congress agreed to loan Chrysler $1.5 billion with the condition that it will pay back the government $2 billion on its own.
To bring change to the organization Iacocca had to make tough decisions; he had to persuade and gain trust of workers to accept layoffs and cut wages to save the company. Iacocca decided to discontinue production of less popular models and introduced a new line of models, same which were rejected at Ford and ultimately became Chrysler’s most profitable lineup. Lastly, Iacocca went public to improve companies reputation and was featured in commercial with the slogan of The pride is back.
In the end, Chrysler regained its reputation and profits while paying back the government much in advance. This was all made possible because of Iacocca’s Hannibal-like leadership style where he was driven by his mission and made others believe on his mission too.
In conclusion, Hannibal was a leader whose sole motivator was his mission and not personal gain of wealth; which I think played a major role in his success. He was a sharp thinker and was able to effectively bring unconventional ideas to life. In today’s competitive business world, this “translates into doing what has never been done before in industries where giants like Rome already exist.”

Moreover, I personally liked the comparison of Hannibal and Iacocca. The reason beginning is that in the recent recession the American auto industry faced similar situation where they had to convince the government that they were “too big to fail”. Despite the scrutiny from the public, the auto industry was awarded bailout money. And fortunately, like before they came back stronger and began paying back to the government. In addition, Chrysler used the same come-back approach as they did in 1980s where it introduced new innovative models like the all-electric Volt and the Imported from Detroit slogan.

I think the example of Chrysler beautifully shows that despite the changing times the successful leadership styles are the same. Like Hannibal, current leaders need demonstrate an “irresistible will, intense focus, and a disciplined approach” in order to be successful and lead.

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Overcoming Leadership Challenges – Part 1 : In History

Not too long ago I had the opportunity of reading:  Forbes, Steve, and John Prevas. “Hannibal of Carthage .” Power ambition glory: the stunning parallels between great leaders of the ancient world and today — and the lessons you can learn. New York: Crown Business, 2009. Based on this reading, I am writing posts on the lessons that we can learn from Hannibal’s amazing leadership and also look at some successful leaders from recent times that I believe practiced Hannibal-like leadership style.


Whenever we remember a successful or an unsuccessful leader we tend to remember them for what they did. For example, we recognize Cyrus and Alexander for conquering and building empires. However, it is equally important to distinguish a leader for how he did things rather than just for what he did. Hannibal is one of those leaders in history who did the impossible: he led armies over mountains that no one thought could be crossed, and he went against a force that no one thought could be beaten. Hannibal was able to achieve such success by following the simple principles of staying focused, thinking ahead and managing details.

Hannibal was the son of Hamilclar who was the army general of an ancient state Carthage; located 300 miles from Rome. From the age of nine Hannibal accompanied his father in battles and like his father he soon grew eternal hatred for Rome. “I swear that so soon as age will permit…I will use fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome.”Soon after his father’s death Hannibal took command of the army and launched the mission against which he had been sworn.
One of the main reasons behind Hannibal’s unconventional success was his strong focus on the mission and respect for his followers. From the beginning, Hannibal strongly believed that as a leader if you provide enough motivation, discipline and means for excelling self-interest you can get people to follow you to do anything. Like the other leaders of his time, Hannibal’s leadership style was authoritative and precise however; he understood the importance of getting constant feedback from those he commanded. He led by example and never asked his soldiers to do anything that he would not be willing to do himself. That’s why a major portion of his leadership was around training and rewarding his soldiers; many of whom came from lower classes of society. In addition, Hannibal possessed incredible self-control and lived modestly. He “put his mission over his personal comforts and resisted being corrupted by wealth and success.

Moreover, Hannibal was a leader who always thought ahead in the future and projected outcomes. He was one of the few leaders who recognized the importance of having broader knowledge other than just military and political affairs. Before leaving for the war, he surrounded himself with scholars and learned both Greek and Latin – for cultural and strategic advantages. Soon he realized that the war between Rome and Carthage was inevitable and decided to take the first initiative which led to the Second Punic War.
Hannibal won several notable battles in Italy however his greatest accomplishment was crossing of the Alps – one of the most dangerous and treacherous mountain range covered with constant snow and unexpected weather conditions. Hannibal had 80,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and 40 war elephants. Through this journey, they encountered several local tribes that attempted to initiate battles, however despite suggestions from his officers Hannibal refused to mobilize his soldiers. While some soldiers thought of this as a cowardly behavior on Hannibal’s behalf however, this is an example of thinking-ahead quality that Hannibal possessed. In addition, this shows great component of Hannibal’s leadership “understanding which battles are important to win and which would simply waste resources and deflect attention from the objectives.”

Nevertheless, by the time they finished crossing the mountain Hannibal had lost several good soldiers and the ones left were extremely tired and weak. Even though, Hannibal was able to motivate his soldiers to keeping moving by promising them “enough gold, silver, and slaves for a new start in lifehe knew that he had a bigger problem to handle. Hannibal knew that he could not take his soldiers with such lack of energy into traditional battle and had to think strategically. In the first encounter with Romans, Hannibal decided to attack in dark early morning through freezing water; which seemed as a suicidal tactic to his officers. However, Hannibal’s plan involved ambush attack behind enemy lines which would surround enemy-soldiers when they retreated. Likewise, in another attack Hannibal positioned his soldiers in such manners that the rising sun on the morning of the battle would blind the Romans and the dust raised by all the movement of men and animals would blow into the faces of the enemy as they advanced. Such great attention to detail from Hannibal greatly helped him win numerous battles and overcome obstacles. “Hannibal won his battles because he exploited every advantage that terrain, weather, and psychology could afford him.”

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