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Leadership & History

The History of Leadership


I love history, and have always enjoyed being a student of history. Earlier this week we launched a new project: The History of Leadership. The project consists of an interactive historical timeline of the world’s greatest leaders dating as far back as 2000 BC. Since history has been recorded, so have great lessons in leadership. The ultimate test of leadership has always been, and will always be, whether or not it can endure the test of time. Time tells a story, validates or invalidates theories, positions, and philosophies, and ultimately, time shapes a leader’s legacy. While anyone can be great in the moment, few can sustain greatness over time. Put simply, there is much to be learned from viewing anything through a historical lens – especially leadership. I would invite you to visit The History of Leadership and leave suggestions for possible inclusions, debate omissions, and mostly further the dialog around the topic of leadership. Leadership is nothing without engagement – let’s engage.

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    Ben Simonton

    June 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I applaud your effort to create a History of Leadership. But it appears to be a history of leaders, not of leadership itself.

    Our problem down through history is that few business leaders have truly understood what it is that followers follow or how people react to managerial actions and inactions. Following and reacting have not changed because people have not basically changed. True engagement has not changed though we keep changing what we call a dedicated, highly motivated, highly committed person. In my short lifetime we have gone from empowerment to ownership and lately to engagement.

    What we need to better understand is how to create fully engaged people, the techniques and underlying science. Having created several engaged workforces with over 300% productivity gains, I think I have a good handle on it but would love to learn more.

    Best regards, Ben
    Author “Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed”


      Eileen Snyder

      June 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

       I have worked for leaders that used fear as a motivator and it never worked. Maybe it worked initially, but people check out, become disengaged and they don’t care anymore. They may even find ways to sabotage business when fear is employed. A leader has to be a good listener and collaborator and the workforce will be committed and engaged. If a leader is all about task and not about relationship the team will begin to feel diminished.


        Mike Myatt

        June 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm

        Hi Elieen:

        Very astute observations. I’m in agreement with each of your conclusions. The following link will take you to a piece I wrote about the fear vs. loyalty issue if interested: https://hub.n2growth.com/ceos-feared-or-respected 

        Thanks for stopping by Eileen.


      Mike Myatt

      June 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Ben:

      I appreciate your thoughts, and agree to a certain extent. That said, I feel as if much of what you’re referring to is a matter of semantics. While I believe empowerment, ownership and engagement to be different things with different meanings, nomenclature isn’t the issue – leadership, or a lack thereof is. 

      So, with respect to the history of leaders vs. history of leadership, I agree leaders must own the burden of leadership. I also agree leaders are only part of the equation and must enable, engage, and empower those whom they lead. However it is impossible to chronicle the history of leadership without focusing on the leaders who understood/understand how to lead, motivate and foster commitment among those whom they led/lead. 

      An interesting discussion – thanks for sharing your insights Ben.


    Caitlin Laura

    June 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Love that Pat Tillman is listed on your list. He walked away from a NFL contract and taught us all what it means to stand up for our country and defend our freedom. He is a great hero and leader. Great project. Love the idea and content!


      Mike Myatt

      June 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Thanks Caitlin. Pat Tillman is an inspiration. I only wish more professional athletes displayed the courage, compassion, and character exemplified by Pat’s life. 


    Mike Myatt

    June 29, 2012 at 9:23 am

    If you haven’t clicked through to the timeline, you’re missing a great conversation. We’ve received great feedback on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn with many new nominations being submitted for consideration. Thanks for all the comments (100+ and counting across various platforms) – keep them coming. 

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