Leadership lessons from Ashurbanipal, King of the world, King of Assyria
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 than others. His ability to crush his enemies will not be a surprise; however, his commitment to learning and the creation of the first cataloged 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 only 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 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 father's 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 people of the empire. 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 more natural ways of gaining insight. Find out what your employees are thinking by conducting an anonymous internal review. This way, you can identify any discontent before it turns into anything more serious.
There are several 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 ordinary 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. While it’s not recorded whether he thought one was mightier than the other, he clearly understood the value of knowledge.
Ashurbanipal created the first cataloged library in the world. He was scouring his diverse empire to collect the written knowledge of the time. When he wasn't defeating rebellious subjects or focusing on running his empire, he was pursuing education for its own sake.
Invest in yourself.
Are you 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 an 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 neighbors in check. When a rebellious king rose up against him, he marched on their capital and decimated everything before him. The king's 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 demonstrated 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 a 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!