Week 6 Session One
“At all events, we know that people obeyed Cyrus willingly, although some of them were distant from him a journey of many days, and others of many months; others, although they had never seen him, and still others who knew well that they never should see him. Nevertheless they were all willing to be his subjects.”
But all this is not so surprising after all, so very different was he from all other kings, both those who have inherited their thrones from their fathers and those who have gained their crowns by their own efforts
But Cyrus, finding the nations in Asia also independent in exactly the same way, started out with a little band of Persians and became the leader of the Medes by their full consent and of the Hyrcanians by theirs; he then conquered Syria, Assyria, Arabia, Cappadocia, both Phrygias, Lydia, Caria, Phoenicia, and Babylonia; he ruled also over Bactria, India, and Cilicia; and he was likewise king of the Sacians, Paphlagonians, Magadidae, and very many other nations, of which one could not even tell the names; he brought under his sway the Asiatic Greeks also; and, descending to the sea, he added both Cyprus and Egypt to his empire.
He ruled over these nations, even though they did not speak the same language as he, nor one nation the same as another; for all that, he was able to cover so vast a region with the fear which he inspired, that he struck all men with terror and no one tried to withstand him; and he was able to awaken in all so lively a desire to please him, that they always wished to be guided by his will. Moreover, the tribes that he brought into subjection to himself were so many that it is a difficult matter even to travel to them all, in whatever direction one begin one’s journey from the palace, whether toward the east or the west, toward the north or the south.
In the passage above from Chapter Six of The Education of Cyrus , Xenophon describes Cyrus as a great leader that conquered vast lands, that were previously outside his given empire’s control. The other kings could not do what Cyrus accomplished. We also know that “people obeyed Cyrus willingly.” Cyrus had the consent of the people. We know from our reading from last week that Cyrus was one of three great leaders that commanded respect and established empires like others could not. Even though Cyrus did not speak the same languages as all the nations he ruled over, he “awakened a lively desire to please him.” It is remarkable that he was able to do this because he could not travel to all the places he was in control over. Therefore, he did not meet all of his subjects, yet they still all loved and respected Cyrus.
It can be argued (from the story) that Cyrus’ conversation with his father is what prepared him to lead and accomplish as much as he did. Cambyses, his father, served as his mentor. Using the IATEP model, Cambyses identified what he wanted to talk to Cyrus about, leadership, analyzed by breaking down certain things Cyrus will be faced with, translated by using hypothetical situations, evaluated his examples and related them back to Cyrus’ original schooling in Persia, and he practiced by asking Cyrus to repeat what he had already been taught and to teach him more in depth about what it means to be a great leader.
Below, I have listed passages where Cambyses mentors Cyrus by providing specific responsibilities he has as a leader and warns him about what will make him fail and what will allow him to succeed. Under each quote I will explain how if Cyrus did not receive this advice, how he might not have had the success he had.
“For instance, you doubtless know that if your army does not receive its rations, your authority will soon come to naught.” If his resources fail or if he play you false on purpose, how will your army fare?”
If Cyrus had relied solely on others to provide for his army, he undoubtably would have been disappointed at some point and his army left to perish. If they had no food and could not sustain their health, then they would not be inclined to support any greater cause.
“And this is most expedient; for you will obtain more from those upon whom you make demands, if you do not seem to be in want, and besides you will thus be blameless in the eyes of your own soldiers; in this way, furthermore, you will command more respect from others also, and if you wish to do good or ill to any one with your forces, your soldiers will serve you better as long as they have what they need.”
Cyrus had to keep up appearances. He himself could not seem to be in want for things that he could not reach. He had to make people feel like he was content. In this way, he was able to command the respect and in commanding respect, he obtained more from those from whom he demanded from.
“But your responsibility for health will be a larger one than that: you must see to it that your army does not get sick at all.”
Illness can lead to immobility, or worse death. If Cyrus was ill, he would appear weak to his army. Psychologically, this is disheartening. If Cyrus was healthy, but his army sick, then they would physically be unable to mobilize against the enemies, which would mean defeat.
“If any one too often raises false expectations of good things to come, eventually he can gain no credence, even when he holds forth well-grounded hopes. But, my son, you should refrain from saying what you are not perfectly sure of.”
Cyrus had to offer candor to his people so that he would not look foolish. If he were to boast about things that were not true, then his people would learn to distrust him. A modern day example is Donald Trump, a president that frequently lies and says things that he is most definitely not sure of. A large number of American people distrust him and have no respect for him as a leader.
“You would show yourself wiser than others if you should exert yourself to get that done; for it is a mark of greater wisdom in a man to strive to secure what is needful than to neglect it.”
Typically, people do not follow people that do not seem that have more knowledge in some area than the next person. For example, a basketball player will not listen to a coach that has no experience in the game. It was important that Cyrus was wiser than the others so that they would be more inclined to follow his lead.
“The general must show that he can endure the heat of the sun better than his soldiers can, and that he can endure cold better than they if it be in winter; if the way lead through difficulties, that he can endure hardships better. All this contributes to his being loved by his men.”
Cyrus had to display a certain level of strength. People do not like to follow people that are not the best of the best. It is demeaning in a way, if a leader makes others endure what they themselves cannot. Those that “get in the mud” with their people are often more loved and respected. For example, a team captain on any sports team must be the best of the best. No one wants to follow the person that cannot run the mile better than they can. The question then arises, “why am I following them if they are no better than I?”
I believe Cyrus is most like Barack Obama. For lack of a better example, I have chosen to compare the two because Obama is a contemporary leader that I know the most about. Cyrus is most like Obama because the people love him. Not only did a lot of Americans love Obama but people from other nations love him as well and admire him. I know this because I visited Egypt this summer and our guide expressed numerous times how much Egyptian people recognize him as a global leader and someone to respect, especially as a person of color who had African roots. Like Cyrus, Obama related to the people. People loved him because he was seemingly down to Earth. He appeared to be regular, but not too regular where he seemed like he was no better than the rest of the people. He was relatable but still on a pedestal because he was ivy league educated and a well known lawyer and community activist.
If I were hired to be Cyrus’ leadership coach I would tell him he needed to work on his desire to be good at absolutely everything. Although people should look at him as wiser and more capable in certain areas than others, I would tell him that being leader in the 21st century requires that he focuses on what he is good at and improving in those areas. He doesn’t have to be the best fisherman in the world. It is okay that some people do that better than he does.
For training, I would recommend for Cyrus to keep visiting different countries and becoming well versed in the cultures. Global leaders have knowledge of the world. Their views are anything but parochial. I would also recommend Cyrus take leadership and history courses at various universities. In order to become a great leader, I believe that is important to look at the failures and success of other great leaders. Knowledge of history is imperative because it informs the present. I suggested that Cyrus go to different universities because every college has something different to offer. Attending various universities will help Cyrus develop multi cultural competencies that will help him succeed as a leader in the 21st century.
In addition to visiting countries and taking courses, I suggest Cyrus continue to try things that he knows he is not good at. Although I do not think he should waste time trying to be good at every single thing, I do think that it is important he experiences failures and metaphorically get back up on the horse.
As I shared in class this week, personally, I believe that failures are what helps lead people to success. I think that failures, if taken well enough, allow a person to assess what went wrong and to be even better when they take another stab at it.
For me, my story about how to take failure is literally about falling off a horse. It is as follows:
Before I ever touched a basketball or a soccer ball, I was an equestrian. I rode English style and went to fancy competitions all dressed up in a navy-blue blazer and shiny black boots. The first competition I participated in I won two first and one second place ribbon. Everyone was there to witness, my parents, my cousins, my grandmother, and even my great aunts and uncles. Everyone kept telling me how special I was, what a great thing it was that I had just accomplished. With no real insight, this might not appear to be a big deal. However, this was not as simple as just earning a medal on the local youth soccer team. To my family, it was bigger than that. Both my mother and father came from backgrounds where their parents could not afford to send them to horseback riding lessons. My grandparents worked to put food on the table and to keep the lights on. There was no money for extracurricular activities, and certainly no room for something as expensive as horseback riding. Now that I am a young adult, and can reflect on it, I understand why that competition was so special to my family, especially to my parents. They were doing what most parents dream of, they were giving their kid an opportunity that they themselves could not have been afforded.
Of course, back then I was not thinking about what my accomplishments meant for my parents. I was just happy to have my family sing my praises. I thought I was hot stuff. Then one day, I got knocked down, quite literally. I was at a lesson and my trainer had me on a pony. His name was Knickers. It sounds cute enough, right? A pony named Knickers, with a little girl riding him? So sweet!! Well if you were thinking that, you are wrong, ten times over. Knickers was mean and almost vindictive. It was as if he had gotten cheated out of being a real horse and was angry at the universe for making him miniature. On this particular day, Knickers had a more than usual ornery and stubborn attitude about him. I could not get him to do anything my trainer instructed me to do. In order to get him to gallop, I had to squeeze his sides and tug at the reigns. I tried and tried but Knickers would not budge, so I squeezed a little harder expecting him to at least take a few steps. Unfortunately, I missed my mark. Knickers went from zero to one hundred. He went from standing there snorting his breath to galloping around the arena like he was Forrest Gump and he heard Jenny yelling “RUN, KNICKERS RUN!” Forrest was trying to lose the bullies, and to Knickers, I was the bully. He was trying his hardest to get rid of me, to shake me but I just kept holding on. Just as I started to get used to the speed at which he was going, Knickers came to a screeching halt, and I went flying. Knickers danced around me for a few seconds and then walked away from me. I ran out of the arena, terrified. After I had calmed down and my trainer had calmed Knickers down, she looked at me with a straight face and said “Alex, are you ready to get back on?”. My dad and I looked at her like she was mentally deranged. How did she expect me to get back on after that? I was ready to go home, to never ever get back on a horse ever again, and I certainly was not getting back on within an hour of being launched out of my saddle like a rocket. But, as scared as I was of getting back on I was more scared of my trainer, Ms. Kelly. So, I looked at my dad, then looked at Ms., Kelly, and then back at Knickers. I put my helmet back on, took a sip of water, and I did like the saying goes, and got back up on the horse and successfully continued my lesson.
That experience shaped my attitude about how I approached life going forward. I always, always, always make it a point to metaphorically get back on the horse because accepting defeat is simply not an option. I have come to learn that there will always be Knickers in life and that it is more than okay to get knocked down. Life will run you around and then when you think you are used to the speed, it will abruptly switch gears and throw you off balance. I say this not to sound negative or cynical, but I am a realist. And life is real, and it can be painful. It happens to everyone. No one is exempt. However, there is always the possibility of success, and in order to have that success you must have the willingness to get back on the horse and to try again. You have to have a staunch resiliency about you, even if that resiliency starts off as a façade. It sounds like a cliché, but sometimes you really do just have to fake it until you make it. Because of the Knickers experience and similar experiences that I had following it, I know that failing does not make you a failure, but sitting back and accepting defeat does.
Week 6 Session Two
Rereading The Education of Cyrus allowed me to look at the story as more than just a tale about a great leader. I was able to draw lessons from it. Cyrus’ conversation with his father Cambyses gave me new ideas about how to inspire others. Specifically, I can use this with my little cousins who often ask me for advice. I can use the advice given in the book and translate it to a more modern version to help others.