Alexander the Great: Vital Lessons to Learn from A Great Leader

Alexander the Great

Updated On: November 09, 2023 by   Aya RadwanAya Radwan

He was born Alexander III, and fate, his father’s diligence, comprehensive education and thirst for politics and power earned him the title Alexander the Great. The young king held a high status in ancient Macedonia, which isn’t only related to his kingship; he was closer to a deity. His ruthless conquests were accompanied by his tolerance towards the people of the countries he invaded.

Alexander the Great was great not only on the battlefield but also as an understanding and appreciative leader. However, even the greatest of kings will fall, sometimes due to the simplest of reasons. We talk about Alexander, his life, conquests and some of his quotes and life lessons we learned from him.

Who was Alexander the Great?

He was King Alexander of Macedonia, son of King Phillip from Macedon, and who is most known for giving the incredible city of Alexandria her name. He was born in July 356 BC and had the best tutors the royal court could offer. He had to succeed his father at age 20 after his father’s assassination in public. Alexander ruled over the Macedonian Empire for only 13 years since he abruptly lost his life to fever at the age of 32. 

Alexander perhaps had the most significant impact on the Macedonian Empire in its history. After his father reinforced his troops and built a fearful Macedonian army, Alexander’s wise leadership utilised every aspect of this mighty army. He knew how to crush rebellions and knock the idea of separation from the mother empire out of everyone’s heads. Additionally, he knew how to lead his mighty army to defeat defiant kings, such as King Darius III of Persia, after which all the land, once under Persian rule, became under Macedonian rule. This extended the empire to Egypt, the Levant, Iran, Pakistan, and India.

What skills did Alexander the Great have that made him a unique leader?

Alexander’s upbringing had a direct effect on his personality and skills. While historians doubt that his political decisions were influenced by his tutor, Aristotle, they don’t doubt his leadership and social skills were greatly influenced by him.

He knew how to talk to his people

Alexander’s rich and vibrant vision, thinking and vocabulary helped him know exactly what to say to his people and how and when to say it so it would have the desired effect. He also used cultural symbols to appeal to his soldiers, which greatly motivated his troops and brought about a strong feeling of identification. Such feeling empowered his troops further in battle.

He had a clear vision of how to bring his thoughts to life

Alexander dispatched a trusted network of spies who brought him the latest news of his adversaries. He knew how to read the news he got and interpret it to his favour. This trait proved helpful in war times, as Alexander was able to read his opponents and anticipate their moves, which ultimately gave him an advantage. To ensure his vision was executed by a well-oiled machine, he took great care in choosing and assigning his commanders. Those who will help deliver the results he aimed for.

A leader who leads by example

Alexander rode at the front of his army; he never cowered and hid between his troops. Moreover, he shared their calamities; if they went hungry, he wouldn’t eat, and if any of their horses died in battle and had to walk, he’d unsaddle his horse and walk beside them.

He appreciated innovation

Alexander knew how to utilise the creative minds of his appointed generals and engineers. He realised that fostering their innovative ideas it would appeal to their ego, and they would work harder in oiling his war machines. He took matters further by ensuring his troops were well-trained in the field, using their current equipment and trained on any futuristic innovations from his engineers. Such training ensured that his troops had an advantage in battle and had high spirits as well.

Alexander didn’t consolidate his gains

Alexander the Great: Vital Lessons to Learn from A Great Leader

Alexander might have expanded his empire to the south and east, but he never stopped to pay down firm foundations in the countries he conquered. This weakness resulted in the disintegration of the Macedonian empire following his death. An incentive for this disintegration is that Alexander never really thought about the next king. He focused entirely on his role and conquests that he didn’t think about a successor, which contributed to his empire’s demise.

Recognizing and encouraging individual efforts

Alexander kept a close eye on his troops during battle, recognised their individual efforts, and praised their bravery. He listened intently to them and their concerns. This sent his troops a strong message that their efforts were recognised and their sacrifices appreciated.

Why was Alexander The Great, well, great?

At the house end of his life, Alexander the Great ruled three continents that stretched south from Macedonia to Egypt and east from Greece to India. Alexander’s rule represented a historically unique period, where the Hellenistic culture infused with the cultures of each country Alexander conquered to create an interesting version of his home culture.

Phillip II hired Aristotle to teach Alexander about science, math, art, philosophy and literature

Alexander the Great: Vital Lessons to Learn from A Great Leader

This greatly influenced Alexander’s personality, he was alleged to have loved Homer‘s The Iliad so much, that he slept with his copy of the book. This knowledge of different sciences proved beneficial in Alexander’s conquest of other countries and nations. He understood their cultures their customs and knew how to conquer them best.

Phillip, Alexander’s father, greatly affected his son’s social and military thinking and actions

When Phillip assumed power, Macedonia was a weak nation belittled by the Greeks and had a disintegrating military. What Phillip did was work on strengthening his army by proper and consistent training and arming them with new and unheard-of weapons. After Phillip’s assassination, Alexander inherited his father’s powerful army, one that had been at the gates of Persia after crushing the Greeks.

Unfortunately, most historians remember Phillip as Alexander’s father and don’t mention his mighty influence on his son, nor do they acknowledge that Alexander’s advancement wouldn’t have been possible without his father’s initial efforts.

Alexander was a ruthless leader

after his father’s death, Alexander was busy suppressing attempted northern rebellions. In the meantime, the Greek leaders of Thebes heard and spread rumours that Alexander had lost his life in battle, which encouraged them to attack the Macedonian garrison in the city. There was no doubt about it; when Alexander heard of the attack, he marched over in allegedly 12 days only and crushed the army of Thebes and the Greek will with it. Alexander’s message was loud and clear: his father’s legacy will continue, and if you defy Macedonia, you bought your ticket out of life.

Alexander the Great: Vital Lessons to Learn from A Great Leader

Alexander crushed the Persian Emperor

King Darius III followed his ancestors’ footsteps by ruling over the Mediterranean region for over two centuries. Alexander’s and Darius III‘s troops were set to meet in Gaugamela, where Darius flattened the earth to allow his horse-drawn chariots to crush Alexander’s troops. However, what Darius didn’t know was that Alexander intended to lure his troops to one side of the battlefield while he sent his cavalry to the centre of the Persian army, hitting the Persians at their weakest link.

This military tactic became known as the Pawn Sacrifice tactic and remains highly praised by military specialists today. Darius III’s defeat led his relatives to choose to survive, so his cousin assassinated him and presented his head to Alexander as a peace offering. With this victory, Alexander extended the Macedonian realm to the Levant in the south and Afghanistan to the east.

Alexander believed the world to be his stage

Alexander’s intensive schooling and study of various fields at a young age helped him expand Macedonia to Egypt to the south and India to the east. He might’ve been a ruthless warrior, but he was also a smart leader. Instead of obliterating the traditions and customs of the nations he conquered, he worked on better integration policies of these customs into the Hellenistic culture. This approach allowed him to peacefully continue the expansion of his Greek roots and made people more willing to accept the Macedonian ruler. This integration policy allowed the Macedonian rule to continue for three centuries.

He founded the world’s greatest intellectual capital

Alexander fell in love with the western coast of today’s Alexandria and named the city after himself. As he continued his march to the east to meet his end in Babylon at the age of 32, Ptolemy, one of his generals, assumed power over Egypt. The country thrived under the Ptolemaic rule and became the world’s cultural capital by housing famous scientists and mathematicians like Euclid. The Bibliotica Alexandrina became the world’s most extensive library, home to more than 700,000 scrolls. To pay tribute to Alexander, the Ptolemies built a glass coffin, intercepted his procession and placed his body inside so that the people could pay tribute to the Macedonian leader.

Alexander became the hero of ancient romantic action novels

Nearly a century after his death, a collection of fictionalised Alexander stories named Alexander Romance became popular throughout Macedonia. The reason people loved these stories was the great appeal Alexander had and he was easy on the eyes as well. For these reasons, such stories were translated and enjoyed from the East to the West. It’s alleged these stories were the third most translated scripts after the Bible and the Quran.

What impact did Alexander the Great have on Macedonia?

Alexander ensured that his father’s legacy would continue by crushing any attempted rebellions with brutal force. This force wasn’t random; he knew how to organise and utilise the power of his army. All this allowed him to instil the fear of the Macedonian army in the hearts of anyone who dared to think about separating from the empire.

What countries did Alexander the Great conquer and add to the Macedonian Empire?

Soon after his father’s death, Alexander had to suppress the Greek rebellion. Then he went on to conquer Anatolia, followed by The Levant, Egypt, Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Did Alexander the Great visit Egypt? And why?

Yes. Egypt had been under Persian rule for a century from 343 BC. When Alexander the Great defeated King Darius III of Persia in continuous battles through Gaza and Tyre, Alexander continued marching to Egypt. He wanted to establish Macedonian rule over the former Persian lands, and what he found upon his arrival to Egypt was surprising. The Egyptians didn’t fight the arrival of Alexander; instead, they welcomed him as a liberator from the former oppressive Persian rule. Soon after, the Egyptians named Alexander their Pharaoh, and he chose the location of Alexandria to name after himself.

How many cities did Alexander the Great name? And how many of them he named after himself?

The most famous city that Alexander named is the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria. But there are more than 70 cities across the ancient borders of Macedonia that Alexander named. All these cities Alexander named after himself, except for one, which he named Alexandria Bucephalus, after his horse and is in modern-day Pakistan. There’s Alexandria Ariana in modern-day Afghanistan and Alexandretta and Scanderoon, or Iskenderun in modern-day Turkiye.

What were Alexander the Great’s last wishes?

Alexander the Great: Vital Lessons to Learn from A Great Leader

Alexander’s last wishes were all concerning his procession and burial. He shared three wishes with his close circle. These wishes were:

  1. He permitted his physicians only to carry his coffin.
  2. He wanted his collective wealth to line the road leading to his final resting place in the graveyard.
  3. He wished both his hands to be hanging out of his coffin.

Alexander the Great Quotes that reflect his incomparable insight

Alexander was an eloquent speaker; he had a profound knowledge of many of life’s aspects and frequently shared his thoughts and visions with his circle, generals and troops. Some of his inspiring quotes reflected his beliefs:

  • He didn’t fear an army of lions led by a sheep; he feared an army of sheep led by a lion.
  • Alexander believed nothing was impossible to a man who persisted in trying.
  • He believed he owed his life to his father but owed his teacher for showing him how to live that life.
  • Alexander believed that the group’s fate depends on its individuals’ behaviour.

Alexander the Great in World Cinema

Several films portrayed the life of Alexander the Great. Most notably, the film Alexander in 2004, starring Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie. Young Alexander the Great in 2010, starring Sam Heughan and Lauren Cohan. One of the most comprehensive works of art about Alexander’s life is the documentary Alexander The Great, aired in 2014 and distributed by Netflix.

What we learn from the life of Alexander the Great is that not only strengths that build an empire and give good examples but also weakness points. We learn the importance of following through to the end.  

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