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A Discussion On Alexander The Great History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Those events happened long time ago are difficult to separate myth from the fact. So, there always be some doubts about the truthfulness of ancient history, and the story of Alexander the great, the king of Macedonia, is no different. Historians, writers, strategists and philosophers present people different versions of Alexander, Some deem him as a saint, a hero or ever a god, while some other consider him as a tyrant, a alcoholic and a thief. But, what is no doubt that Alexander the Great is one of the greatest leaders in human history and the creator of one of the largest empires in ancient history, although admittedly somewhat shorter lived.

Alexander’s reputation

“The glory and the memory of men will always belong to the ones who followed their great visions…”

——– J.G. Droysen(German historian)

Alexander is the most dramatic character in history, and his experience and personality has always been the source of strength. What made–and still makes–him so remarkable is the sheer precocity of his enterprise: the conquest of most of the known world in a strong 12-year whirlwind. At his 20, Alexander succeeded his father to the throne and become the king of Hellene world at the east of Adriatic Sea. At his 26, Alexander had conquered and become the new ruler of the entirety of the Persian Empire which ever was incomparably formidable. At his 30, his invincible military reached the end of oecumene. At his 33, the world sighed for his young death. Therefore, he had been a legend while he was alive. And after his death in 323 BC, his legend was eulogized all around the world.

World conquerors don’t come much grander than Alexander the Great. Together with Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, the King of Macedon sits at the top table of history’s greatest empire-builders. (Cartledge, 2004) Alexander the Great remains the best example of leadership, unmatched after more than 2000 years. He was not only a military genius, but also he was in the position that involved political, religious and even business. I write this paper for analyzing the leadership of Alexander the Great. The structure of this paper is the following: The brief introduction of Alexander the Great and his achievements followed by the analysis of the leadership traits of Alexander the Great, the analysis of the leadership behavior of Alexander the Great, and the assumption of Alexander’s leadership in the hospitality industry.

The glory of his short life


Alexandros III Philippou Macedon, King of Macedonia was born in the capital of Macedon, Pella, in 356BC, as a prince. His father, Philip II of Macedon, was the king of Macedonia and his mother was Olympias, daughter of king Neoptolemus I of Epirus (Albania). Olympia was passionate, headstrong, mystical but immodest and unpopular among Philip’s Macedonian courtiers. She was superstitious and participated in orgiastic rites of the cult of Dionysus. And she always firmly believed that Zeus, the Greek god, sired Alexander.

Education and early life

His first teacher is the harsh Leonidas, a relative of Olympias. It made Alexander’s diligency and continency. When he was 13 yeas old his father invited the great Hellenic philosopher Aristotle as his tutor for his higher education. The education made him a great king. Besides, he learned about the art of battle, this made him a heroic warrior. And Alexander showed the talent in music and horsemanship in his childhood.

It was said that Alexander’s character in strongly influenced and inspired by a God (Dionysus), a demigod (Hercules), a hero (Achilles), and a sovereign (Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor). He was introduced by his mother to the cult mysteries of the Dionysius as a boy. Through Dionysius, Alexander took extreme mobility and had a heart of adventure. He desired to be the ones like Hercules and Achilles in Iliad, and he always said himself as Achilles. And he admired Cyrus about personality and he showed the actions like the Cyrus in his conquest later.

When he was 16 years old, 340 B.C., Philip II began to conquer Byzantium, and he left his Macedon to young Alexander to take charge of. In this position, he displayed himself a military genius and crushed many insurgences. But Alexander and his father didn’t have a good relationship until Philip’s death of assassination.

Philip’s heir, King of Macedon

Because Philip had brought most of city-states in mainland Greece under Macedonian hegemony before being assassinated, Alexander inherited a big kingdom. He got the support of Macedonian citizens and army by decreasing the tax, perfectly completing Philip’s last honours, and executing many people that imperiled his throne. Than he started some wars to deal with the abruption and rebelled force. And in two years, Alexander had consolidated his status in Hellene.


In Alexander 12-years’ conquest, his footprint covered from Macedonia, Hellene in the west to the Indus in the east; from Egypt in the south to the north of Adriatic Sea. He and his Macedonian army defeated armies four or five times his size from Persia and India and other tribes and kingdoms. They came through near a hundred campaigns and didn’t lose any of them. This paper will not present the detail information about those campaigns.


In 323 B.C. Alexander came back to Babylon and planed a invasion of Arabiaa, But before he could put his plan into to action, he got a fever and turned into a serious disease which finally took his life at his 32. Also, there was another saying that he was poisoned by his generals. After his death, his empire was separated by his generals. But, Alexander had founded over 70 new cities. The influence of Hellene was also strong and the colonization process was continued by his successors.

Alexander’s philosophy and values

He believed that when a man has the greatest exploit (like Achilles) that no one else can reach, he can become a God. In history, there was a man who was esteemed as a god by people after his death; this man was Julius Caesar, the emperor of Rome Empire. Actually, Alexander was worshipped as a god even when he was alive. It seemed that he deserved to be a god by all appearances. As a warrior and a general, he showed extremely brave and incomparable intelligence. In the 11 years of conquest, he didn’t lose any of the campaigns. Besides, he was tutored by the great Hellenic philosopher Aristotle , and he was one of Aristotle’s most favorite students. He liked Homer, and his actions were guided by the sprit of Homer. He realized that non-Hellenes are not barbarians; in this aspect, he was much wiser than most Hellene ideologist at that time. But in other aspects, he was extremely short-vision. Although he always exposed himself often to the extreme danger during battle, he didn’t arrange his inheritor, this might be the main reason that the Macedonia Empire collapsed in such a short time after he was dead. But his ambition spread Hellene culture far into central Asia, which remained present during the Hellenistic era for a long time after his death.

Outstanding leadership traits of Alexander the Great

Well educated and intelligence

In order to train the future king into a knowledgeable monarch, his father, King Philip III, invite the great Hellenic philosopher Aristotle to tutor Alexander specially. In the following three years, Alexander studied with his tutor day and night, like peas and carrots. They were discussing philosophy, politics, ethics, and many other aspects of knowledge. Aristotle also compiled a special version of the Iliad (a part of Homer) which always inspired Alexander. Alexander loved this literature; he put it under his pillow with a dagger. And the Iliad became Alexander’s manual of war. Alexander highly revered his tutor for teaching him how to be a noble man. Under the Aristotle’s efforts, Alexander became a rare knowledgeable monarch at that era. Later in his conquest across the Eurasia, he didn’t forget to read and learn from Hellenic books and records. Profound knowledge gives Alexander extraordinary charm and unique leadership.” Once, the Persian envoys came to Macedon, while the Persia is the strong empire that Alexander desired to conquer most; he hided his ambitions rationally and make these envoys admired by his genial attitude and abstemious questions. At last, one of the Persian envoys sigh that: this child is a great king, while our king is just rich. In his subsequent conquest, his intelligence not only displayed in his invincibility, but also the rising of many cities by him while his conquest, and he made these cities be the centers of military, politics and economy. For example the Alexandria in Egypt was one of them. Those cities played important roles in the history of human civilization. What’s more, Alexander could get rid of the parochialism in that era, and come up with the ethnic equality. His profound knowledge made his greatness and made his immortal fame eulogized by people as Alexander the Great.

Always have a Vision and Concentrate the big picture.

Great leaders always have a big vision which can be shared, appreciated and resonated with his followers’ hearts and emotions; and can inspire them to think big, generate the feelings of belonging to something greater than self. Alexander had great visions. In the Anabasis which wrote by a Hellenic historian named Arrian there was a description about Alexander’s vision: I couldn’t know exactly what kind of visions and plans were there in Alexander’s mind. But there is no doubt that, they are not some little or small ideas. Even after the Europe is a part of Asia, the British Isles were parts of Europe; he still would not stop his pace of conquest. Actually, conquest was the superficial one; Alexander’s vision was much more than that. His inspiring dream was to unite Europe and Asia under “The Brotherhood of Man” which would bring different cultures into one collaborating unit governed by the spread of Hellenism, able to produce synergy through trade, laws, inclusion and political union. Followed his great vision, Alexander conquered most the known world at that time and built an empire that was not exceeded by posterity. Besides having a great vision, Alexander always looked at the big picture as the most important item. He had never lost sight of his vision and the situational characteristics during his short reign. For example, Alexander crushed many revolts (including the destruction of Thebes) after his accession to the throne from his father. It was a step in his vision where he hoped to force all Greek opposition into submission before setting out to invade Persia. Another example is that during his conquest, in order to make colonies stable, he accepted their culture, used their manner and even married with their princess, and he encouraged his men to follow his steps.

Do not focus on negative things

A Great leader should avoid focusing on negative aspects of things and try to find the positive or good aspects in the bad or negative things, and take advantage of it. For Alexander, because of his optimism or his confidence about his good tactical sense or even his arrogance of invincibility, he always thought things in positive way. As a result, he didn’t lose any battles against Persian Empire and later in India. For example, before Alexander started to invade Persian Empire, most of Macedonian thought it was impossible to conquer Persian because the king of Persia had a strong army and countless wealth. In 331B.C. Macedonian and Persian had a decisive battle in Gaugamela. Persian army was five times size of Macedonian, most generals of Alexander advised him to retreat to the seaside to assemble more army. But Alexander said that, in Persian army, most of the soldiers are slaves of Darius’s, they didn’t want to fight for Darius who was a tyrant and a coward; while the Macedonian army involved the elites of footmen and knights; the Macedonian can defeat the Persian army with his command. The result turned out that Alexander won the decisive battle in Gaugamela and the Darius III was totally defeated by the campaign. In Alexander’s life no matter how bad the situation was, he always turned it into advantages.

Sharp Insight

Great leaders always have penetrating insight; they always can find the smallest things that affect the overall situation. Alexander had very sharp insight, he always can find the weakness of his enemy, and also he can regard the smallest need of his followers. When Alexander was 10 years old, a horse trader from Thessaly send Philip a horse named Bucephalus. But no one can mount the bold black stallion even Philip himself, so Philip ordered to take it away and every decided the horse was too wild to ride. While Alexander, astute in his observations and insights, detected that the horse was just fear of its shadow. So he asked a challenge to tame the horse and he successfully mounted the horse when it was facing the sun, avoiding its shadow. According to Plutarch, Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed him tearfully, declaring: “My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you”, and bought the horse for him. In 331 B.C., Alexander faced two hundred and fifty thousand Persian soldiers in Gaugamela, while he only had fifty thousand Macedonian. It’s a hard battle. It’s the summer; Alexander used his sharp insights to find out that the quick movement of large crowd of army could cause big dust in the desert. So he led his knights to move to right fast and bring a strong dust; Covered by the dust, the knights did a coup de main to the back of Persian army and Macedonian got a big victory.

Leadership behavior of Alexander the Great

Directive leadership

As most military and political leaders, Alexander the Great showed a typical directive leadership. And in some situation, it was even far beyond the direct leadership. He was well educated and had a splendid military talent. He had a strong confidence of his decision-making. Actually, he never learned to listen and accept his inferior officers’ opinions although most of them had much more experience than him. Many historical materials showed that Alexander’s inferior generals always had divarications with him, especially when Alexander brought out some extremely dangerous plans what may bring Macedonian army into bad situation in their eyes. But, Alexander never listened to them; he insisted his decisions and the results turned out his decisions were right. Some people believed that it was only because his always had good luck. But, it was more reasonable that he had abilities rather than lucks. Before every battle, Alexander had a particular plan to reach his goals: victory. Alexander knew accurately what the tasks were and assigned responsibility to the followers. He always knew the strength and weakness of his army and also his enemies. According the strength and weakness he assigned every part of his army into specific jobs. He had strict enforcement of orders and bans, and he expected the quick response from his followers, it seemed especially important when he use coup de main in battles. It was the directive leadership made him and his army win all conquers in his conquest. But this kind leadership style partly turned to be egomania later. In a bender, he killed one of his best inferiors, friend and his saviour: Cleitus because of the divarication. Also, it might cause the death of Alexander (there was a saying that Alexander was poisoned to dead by his inferior).

Charismatic leadership behavior:

Undoubtedly, Alexander was a great charismatic leader. The basis of Alexander’s success as a leader was his ability to inspire his men to think great things and then accomplish them with passion, enthusiasm, and commitment. (Trek, 2005) During his conquest, he always paid attention to the morale of Macedonian army and he was good at inspiring and influencing his soldiers. Before every battle, he always did a speech in front of his army to inspire his soldiers to have a high morale and be ready to fight by using his oratory. And Alexander had empathy, which is the foundational behavior that under girds great leadership and enables the leader to sense how others feel and to understand their perspective. There was a example, in the summer of 327 B C the Iran and perimeter was firmly in control by Alexander. Most of his inferiors thought that it was not necessary to conquer new areas including outside of Hindu Kush where had been abandoned by Persian Empire. The Macedonian army was tired and in low morale, they wanted to go back home instead of going farther. In this situation, Alexander announced that all of his soldiers’ debt would be paid by royal treasury; this action of Alexander inspired his army greatly. By this way and oratory, he actually inspired, hoodwinked and compelled his army to get into Pakistan and India. Alexander had some kind of charisma that made him be loved by his people. He always gave mercy to the enemies that had been conquered by him. Because of this type of leadership, Alexander was adored by people as a godlike man.

If Alexander the Great was in hospitality industry

Theoretically¼ŒAlexander’s leadership is mostly suitable for hospitality industry.

He was a man who had a divine charisma, so his great vision and strong ambitions can easily influence his followers. He always looked at the big picture and he never focused the negative things. What’s more, he had a sharp insight and always be good at inspire his followers. He desired to conquer, if he was in today’s hospitality industry, he can perfectly be competent for the high manager position in a hotel company, and the Merger and Acquisitions Director may be the most appropriate position for him. As the top manager of company, M&A director is needed to have a sharp insight to find out the strengths and weaknesses of his organization; the opportunities, threats and competition situation in the market. Also he needs to be clear about the strategy of his enterprise, do research and analysis about the major products in hospitality industry, the major suppliers and the capital market. If the company had enough capital and a favorable prospect, the capital market can provide capital moreover; the M&A director can make his company a growth by mergers and acquisitions, and significantly enhance its competitiveness in the hospitality industry. Speaking from the military, if a army which is made up with footmen and archers conquers another strength-comparable army while which contains knights crossbowmen and warship, the union of new arms and original infantries and archers would greatly enhance the army’s overall battle effectiveness. Alexander had two traits that were essential to a M&A director: the ability of exceeding and conquering other enterprises, and the soft power of promoting the uniting acquirer and acquiree.

But on the other side, Alexander’s ambition seem to be too big so that he didn’t realize and deal with Practical problems well. If he was a leader in hospitality industry, his company might expand fast but blind. There are many examples that a lot of business decision-makers become pride and arrogant after success. They recognize the maximum of the market share as the only goal, merge and acquire continually. But, they don’t do the effective manage in integrating the subsidiary companies after the mergers and acquisitions. As a result, these companies begin to be in a loss, even go bankrupt or be merged. Steve Ross, who ran a funeral business at early years, acquired Warner Brothers and Time Inc. later years and build a empire of media and communication. After he left his position as health reasons, Gerald Levis continued to have the Alexander-type expansion. His company acquired AOL with large amount of debt in 1999. But there was no cooperation among subsidiary companies, on the contrary, there were full of competition with enmity. Later, Levin was dismissed, his successor Richard Patons had to pick up the pieces, sold the assets to cover the debt. In today’s hospitality industry, big hotels, management companies and restaurants expand very fast by using franchise, expansion of physical facilities, management contract and also mergers and acquisitions. These companies also face the problems that Alexander and lots of business leaders has faced. How to manage the “huge empire” after “conquest”? Of course, Alexander didn’t operate well in this part.


Walt Whitman had a description about Alexander the Great in his original poems: he represented “the highest achievements of the world”, “the future of all lives”, he “covers and contains everything”. We can also use the same words to evaluate the great life of Alexander the Great. Colin Farrell, the actor who acts as Alexander in director Oliver Stone’s film , had a wonderful saying once: “Everything is in it. Greed, jealousy, love, pain, hope, despair, arrogance, friendship, betrays. It’s a very brilliant story. It contains too many things, as many as letting people think it a shoddy novel.” There is no doubt that Alexander achieved a great exploit in his short but splendid life. His outstanding leadership style was studied by afterworld. After all, it is inappropriate to criticize and pictured Alexander the Great because he only lived 33 years without harvesting the seeds of his vision.

The Alexandria is still standing at the South of the Mediterranean Sea; the great stories are still apotheosized by people, but its host Alexander the Great has gone. His honorable soul, great visions and magnificent exploit left as a frame, this frame has been burning quietly in the past, maybe it is just burning quietly now, but it hasn’t went out and would never go out.

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