Cyrus the Great: Leadership

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The word Cyrus is derived from Ancient Greek. This word comes from Old Persian originally from Kurosh meaning to bestow care or the Sun. In the Bible, he is known as simply Koresh. In the Quran, he is known as Zol-qarnain (Arabic: ذوØلقرنين).

Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Archaemenian dynasty and the Persian Empire. Cyrus’ military victories eventually put him in possession of the largest empire in the world at that time. Also we can say that he was an extraordinarily humane ruler for that time. Surely he has achieved his greatness not by words but by hard and difficult choices, actions, and sacrifices. His strategy towards the people of his empire was one of lenience and understanding, as reflected in his agreement of the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple in 538 BC.


Cyrus the Great was born in about 590 BC, in the province of Persis (nowadays called Fars), in southwest of Iran. Cyrus was the grandson of Astyages, king of the Medes. Before Cyrus’s birth, Astyages had dreamed that his grandson would someday overthrow him. The king ordered that the boy infant be killed promptly after his birth. However, the official entrusted with the job of killing the infant had no heart for such a bloody deed, and instead handed him over to a shepherd and his wife with instructions that they put the child to death. But they, too, were unwilling to kill the boy, and instead reared him as their own. Ultimately, when the child grew up, he indeed caused the king’s downfall.

Cyrus conquered the Lydian Empire in Asia Minor, which was ruled by King Croesus, a wealthy man. By 546 BC Cyrus had conquered the Lydian Empire and Croesus became his prisoner. After several campaigns, Cyrus conquered eastern Iran and incorporated it into his empire. However Cyrus the Great overthrew three great empires, Babylonians, Medes, and Lydians and united most of the ancient Middle East into one state, extending from India to the Mediterranean Sea. Cyrus became the first Achaemenian Emperor of Persia, and had the title of “King of Babylon-King of the Land.”

No one has accurate information from the personal beliefs of Cyrus the Great. But based on current evidence we can say that Religion of Cyrus the Great was Zoroastrian that is the dedication to ethical and moral excellence which is based on three simple fundamental principles: GOOD THOUGHTS, GOOD WORDS and GOOD DEEDS

Cyrus was eventually killed in a battle with the Massagetae tribes in Central Asia, east of the Caspian Sea in 530 BC. His body was buried at Pasargadae, the Old Persian capital. The Persian Empire thrived in peace and prosperity for two hundred years.

Cyrus The Great position in the world leadership in his era

I think that Cyrus the Great had an authentic leadership. He achieves highest position among all world leaders throughout the human history because of the following reasons:

He had high moral and ethical values.

He created Persian Empire based on moral principles.

Expanded the Ethical Empire to include all men who wish to join it.

Freedoms of religion, job, and place of residency; being advocate of freedom of choice 2500 years ago is highly venerable.

He was tolerant of local religions and local customs.

In the Bible (e.g., Ezra 1:1-4), Cyrus is famous for freeing the Jewish captives in Babylonia and allowing them to return to their homeland. His name occurs twenty two times in the Bible.

Organization of a Constitution and Judicial system based on high ethical values.

Created Gold and Silver coins for trading.

Ordered all Governors to treat the people as their own children, and no one could be executed for a first time crime.

Slavery was not allowed. The Old Persian culture did not accept the concept of slavery.

He liked to consult with other leaders from different ethnic backgrounds.

He had immense military ability and he was a great statesman.

Cyrus the Great had a Major influence on the thinking of Aristotle and Alexander the Great, and the Roman Empire form of government.

He was moderate and respectful toward his defeated opponents, and if they were popular leaders among their people, he would let them continue with their positions.

Traits of Cyrus the Great and establishment of his ethical Persian Empire some 2500 years ago and continued existence of Achaemenid rule for 200 years indicate a successful leadership based on moral principles.

Cyrus the Great had a lot of respect for ethical values. Unquestionably, his moral values and leadership skills affected his highly successful and respected situation throughout his empire era and among all people under his government.

To prove this fact, one can say about The First Declaration of “Human Rights decree” by Cyrus the Great inscribed on a clay cylinder in cuneiform discovered in 1879 by Hormoz Rasam in Babol and now in The British Museum.

This is the text of the clay cylinder:

“. .When my soldiers in great numbers peacefully entered Babylon… I did not allow anyone to terrorize the people…

I kept in view the needs of people and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being… I freed all the slaves

I put an end to their misfortune and slavery (referred to 42,000 slaveries in the Babylon in that time).”

Characteristic of Cyrus The Great


Cyrus the great was intelligent because he utilized his opportunities in an exceptional way. His establishment of the biggest empire in the world is in fact an antiquity. Also, he innovated new strategies and new structures of ruling over his conquered lands. He used different strategies in different situations.

Military ability and Statesman

Cyrus had immense military abilities and he was very clever in commanding and conducting wars. But that was only one side facet of this great man. Great trait of Cyrus was the gentle character of his rule. He was very tolerant of local religions and local customs, and he was disinclined to the extreme brutality and cruelty, which characterized so many other conquerors.

Tactic of war of Cyrus is demonstrated in his war with the Lydian king Croesus.


He did not change the institution of the kingdoms he incorporated into the Persian Empire, and allowed all the people to live in peace and harmony.

Cyrus is admired as a liberator rather than a conqueror, because he respected the customs and religions of each part of his vast empire.


Cyrus established post system and post office for fast data transfer across the empire. Also, Cyrus had influence in the urban planning and buildings of that time including Persepolis. His great innovation was to divide the huge empire into more or less independent provinces called satrapies.

Wisdom and Toleration

Cyrus was welcomed into Babylon as a liberator by the population. It is important to note that his military were given strict orders not to plunder or in any way harm the citizens. It is a testament to his leadership that these orders were fully obeyed. It also shows the tight control he had over his army.

After the victory of Babylon, the Babylonians were instructed to rebuild their temple, destroyed almost seven decades ago by Nebuchandrezzer II. Cyrus exhorted them to pray to their god and offer sacrifices. Religious freedom and justice became a hallmark of the Persian Empire.

Modernity Terminology

It’s not exaggeration if we call some of his works was really compatible with the modernity terminology. To name a few is what he has done about the slavery.

Other Keys of Success

Consult with other leaders

Although Cyrus the Great was a genius he would consult with other leaders from different ethnic background to come up with a better solution for their problems.

Effective Organization

Cyrus organized his empire in such a way to be to be divided into different provinces or Satrapies. He reduced the 3-month time it took to get messages by horse from Susa to Sardis to less than 2-weeks with the construction of the Royal Road. Cyrus sent imperial agents into each province to observe conditions and report back to him. Perhaps his greatest administrative innovation was the adoption of Aramaic as the official administrative language of the empire, given the diverse ethnic makeup of the provinces.

The leadership qualities of Cyrus resulted in an empire that endured for centuries, even after many outside invasions. His methods were reportedly copied by future rulers that read the accounts of his kingship recorded by ancient historians. Leadership in the post-modern world can look to the life of Cyrus and apply many of his principles to 21st-Century problems.

Level of Leadership

Level 5 Leaders

To know why he is an effective leader, it may suffice to mention that all his commanders obeyed him as they trusted him. Meanwhile, there are many historical facts that he influenced other great leaders in his era and even after his death these influences continued to exist and inspire great leaders of the world.

He was an executive leader, as he used to be in the most front line of any battle, also he was involving in valuable Persian architecture and moreover he was writing all orders about the other religious treatments and last but not least he was totally involved in political structures of his Empire.


Leadership Traits of Cyrus the Great (-08-28″Aug 28, 2009);Michael Streich.

Cyrus the Great

From Wikipedia: Cyrus the Great

Biography of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire

Cyrus The Great The Father & Liberator (1999); Shapour Suren-Pahlav

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