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The Wisdom of Alexander the Great: Enduring Leadership Lessons From The Man Who Created An Empire    by Lance Kurke order for
Wisdom of Alexander the Great
by Lance Kurke
Order:  USA  Can
AMACOM, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Dr. Lance Kurke extrapolates lessons in modern leadership from the life of Alexander the Great, who changed his own world and left an enduring legacy. The author uses the 'theory of enactment' as a leadership learning framework. The book opens on an impressive resumé of Alexander, which includes 'Unified Greece in less than 2 years' and 'Knew the names of 10,000 soldiers'. Kurke explains 'enactment' by telling us that 'leaders are in the reality creation business', and breaks it down into: 'reframing problems', 'building alliances', 'establishing identity', and 'building symbols'. Each process has its own chapter, elaborated on through vignettes in Alexander's career, along with 'Leading Lessons' and modern comparisons.

The author tells us that Alexander the Great often made problems disappear by creating and solving new ones - 'problem displacement'. For example, he defeated an unbeatable Persian navy ... on land. He identified and exploited enemy vulnerabilities, while protecting his own. He led from the front and by example, and he knew how to make defeat look like victory. He continually built strong alliances and created an empire by turning the conquered into converts. When Alexander died, his grand funeral bier was a tourist attraction for centuries. In his youth, he established an enduring 'identity' by tamed the untameable horse Bucephala. He showed reverence to his own culture's heroes and paid attention to what mattered to conquered peoples. He understood the importance of 'building symbols', as in his cutting the Gordian knot, an Asian version of Arthur's sword in the stone.

Kurke concludes by telling us that leadership is an art, and that these enactment processes are key to its application. On Alexander, he quotes Tarn who called him 'one of the supreme fertilising forces of history', and speaks of the leader's vision, genius with human resources, and magnanimity. He reminds us that history is 'where civilization stores its best heroes'. Of Alexander's inspiring speeches to his troops, Kurke ends, 'If you want to change the world, you better have a good story to tell.'

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