What This Little Known King Who Ruled Over 2000 Years Ago Can Teach You About Leadership.
Published 11 months ago by Medet Ali
Leadership lessons from Ashurbanipal, King of the world, King of Assyria
I recently visited the British museum to see the fantastic exhibition on the life of King Ashurbanipal.
King Ashurbanipal of Assyria (r. 669–c. 631 BC) was at the time the most powerful man on earth. A warrior, administrator, leader and yes, a Librarian. He described himself in inscriptions as ‘King of the World’. His reign from the city of Nineveh (now in northern Iraq) marked the high point of the Assyrian empire, which stretched from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the mountains of western Iran. When he made his claim to be the king of kings, few were foolish enough to argue with him.
So what made him successful? What allowed him to control a diverse and unruly Empire for as long as he did. Some of these factors are more obvious then others. His ability to crush his enemies will not be a surprise, however his commitment to learning and the creation of the first catalogued library could well be.
So what are the qualities that made him so successful?
He did not accept that he was destined to be number two.
“At the command of the great gods, [my father] greatly preferred me over the assembly of my elder brothers.”
Ashurbanipal, was not destined to be king. His older brother was the heir presumptive, however his father the king preferred him to his brothers and made him his heir. Ashurbanipal, took on a range of different responsibilities and made himself invaluable to his father.
Don’t be afraid to be put yourself forward.
Just because you think someone is in front of you in the pecking order, doesn't mean you should just accept this. Take on extra responsibility, look to see how you can add value to your organisation. Observe what senior management does and who holds the real power. Don’t accept the perceived hierarchy, look to see what you can do to stand out and strive for the top position. You may just get it.
Try reading "Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones For Success by John C . Maxwell and/or Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business, and Life by Joe Sweeney for some great advice on what you need to do to get ahead.
He understood the value of information.
He was his fathers intelligence officer. Ashurbanipal was responsible for gathering information from across the empire and keeping track of the various provinces that owed their loyalty to the Assyrian throne. This was invaluable in keeping track of the empires people. Ashurbanipal was able to spot disloyalty and potential dissatisfaction before it came up.
Stay on top of your people.
Regardless of your relationships with your staff and peer group, there will be a great deal they will not be telling you. You don't need to hire a small army of spies to keep you informed and nor should you. Apart from the ethical and legal issues involved in spying on your team, there are easier ways of gaining insight. Find out what your employees are really thinking by conducting an anonymous internal review. This way you can identify any discontent before it turns into anything more serious.
There are a number of organisations you can use for this, however start by looking at your Glassdoor profile.
He understood the importance of learning.
I, Ashurbanipal, learned the wisdom of Nabu [the god of writing], laid hold of scribal practices of all the experts, as many as there are, I examined their instructions.
Ashurbanipal, could read and write, not the normal kingly pursuits of the time. He presented himself as a scholar and a lover of learning. If you look closely at his stone reliefs you will see a stylus tucked into his belt right next to his sword. Whilst it’s not recorded whether he thought one was mightier then the other, he clearly understood the value of knowledge.
Ashurbanipal, created the first catalogued library in the world. Scouring his diverse empire to collect the written knowledge of the time. When he wasn't quelling rebellious subjects or focusing on running his empire, he was pursuing knowledge for it’s own sake.
Invest in yourself.
If you are serious about advancement, you need to be on top of the changes in your industry and the world around you. Learning should be an ongoing endeavour. Acquiring knowledge is never a wasted pursuit and is the easiest way to stand out from your peers. Make the effort to invest in yourself by reading self help books, sector specific books and going on self improvement courses.
Soooo many ways to invest in yourself and far too many to list, but here goes.. anything by Peter Drucker, Seneca and A.A Milne should be a good start. Researching courses you can go on are also a must.
He crushed his enemies without mercy.
Ashurbanipal, was ruthless when it came to crushing his enemies and keeping his neighbours in check. When a rebellious king rose up against him, he marched on their capital and decimated everything before him. The kings head was brought back to Nineveh and hung from a tree in the garden. Safe to say, that he did not believe in healthy competition.
Don't compete, be dominant.
Ashurbanipal believed in being the only player in town. Something the most successful businesses in the world demonstrate by their ability to influence and dominate the competition. Amazon is a case in point, so successful that they dominate the vast percentage of the book market. Do you want to be the number one influencer in your sector? Do you want to ensure clients think of your business when they have need? Think about how you can dominate your sector and ensure you are everywhere.
If You're Not First, You're Last by Grant Cordone should get you fired up and ready to march out and conquer!
Want to know more about Ashurbanipal,? Book your tickets at the British museum before this terrific exhibition comes to an end.