What Startup Founders can learn from Alexander The Great.

Alexander The Great, regarded as conquerer of the world who fought many wars and lost to no one is one of the most famous rulers of all time. Born in Greece in Royal Family, he simply was not the usual king with him being known for his immense ambition to rule the world and winning wars to establish his surpemacy. During his youth, Alexander was tutored by the philosopher Aristotle until the age of 16. After Philip was assassinated in 336 BC, Alexander succeeded his father to the throne and inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He had been awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father’s Panhellenic project to lead the Greeks in the conquest of Persia. In 334 BC, he invaded the Achaemenid Empire, ruled Asia Minor, and began a series of campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles, most notably the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. He subsequently overthrew the Persian King Darius III and conquered the Achaemenid Empire in its entirety. At that point, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River. He is often ranked among the world’s most influential people of all time, along with his teacher Aristotle.

Alexander had ambitions, ambitions to win the world. He wanted to become the Invincible and prove that He was the Son of God. His quest to win was astronomical and desire so fierce that led him to embark on a journey that would prove to be one of most remembered in the history of mankind. His leadership style, ambition and curiosity has a lot of interesting relevance in todays world. Spcecially for startup’s and Founders, he proves that why and how uncomfortable but ambitious people can rule the world if they apply right mix of mentors, talent, desire and persistence.

Here are some of tactics and strategy that Alexander used which are of strong relevance to Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs.

Lesson 1: War is rarely the final act (the limits of force) (Strategy)

Although the success of Alexander’s campaigns was underpinned by the application of military force, an explanation for this success requires reference to the other elements of grand strategy. Grand strategy encompasses all the instruments at the state’s disposal: diplomatic, intelligence, military, economic. It can be argued that one of Alexander’s key attributes was his awareness of the limits of force. As a consequence of his inferiority in manpower relative to the scale of his objectives, Alexander understood that he could not simply rely upon the physical presence of his forces to control the vast expanse of the Persian Empire. Thus, in order to cement his rule Alexander would have to complement his military victories with clever post-conflict policies.

Alexander was always careful to put in place a parallel power structure manned by loyal Macedonians or Greeks. Most importantly, Alexander ensured that the key positions of military and financial responsibility were in the hands of his men. When required, Alexander would reform or replace existing political structures. Sun Tzu’s advice to ‘know your enemy’ is straightforward but undoubtedly valuable. Spending the time and effort to establish a reasonable understanding of the areas you will operate in is seldom wasted. In this respect, Alexander’s preparation and intelligence activities in support of the campaign are worthy of praise. It is reported that even as a child Alexander took a keen interest in the Persian Empire, quizzing Persian diplomats on the geography of their homeland.

Lesson 2: There may be various centers of gravity (Competition Landscape)

Centre of gravity is an extremely useful planning tool. The notion that one should examine the enemy, seeking those elements upon which his power/resistance is based, and then focusing one’s efforts in that direction, is inherently sensible.

However, in practice a number of difficulties arise. One faces a substantial intelligence challenge when trying to identify the enemy’s center of gravity. Understanding how the enemy’s ‘system’ functions is fraught with difficulties. In addition, if there is more than one enemy center of gravity how do you, and should you, prioritize? If the enemy’s center of gravity is unreachable or cannot be neutralized do you simply accept defeat and/or a prolonged attritional conflict?

Lesson 3: Control is based upon complex grand-strategic relationships (Partnerships and Deals)

He did not have the numbers of men available constantly to exert control over an area directly with sufficient numbers of armed men. Thus, where control could not be directly exercised by the man on the scene with a spear, Alexander had to rely upon a combination of non- military means and the coercive effects of his forces. When it came to military force it was often the potential, rather than the actual, presence of Alexander’s maim army that was enough to exert control in an area.

Lesson 4: Details matter (Market Research and Validation)

Alexander understood that attention to detail and preparation were essential ingredients of success. In this respect he is in good company. On this issue, Napoleon wrote: ‘In war nothing is accomplished except through calculation. Anything that is not profoundly meditated in its details will produce no result’. He continued, ‘If I take so many precautions it is because my habit is to leave nothing to chance’. During Alexander’s campaigns, the two related elements that display this lesson most clearly are intelligence and logistics. Alexander’s intelligence services provided valuable information on a range of subjects, including topographical details, enemy movements, local political structures, and details pertaining to supplies of food and water — to name just four. With limited forces at his disposal, intelligence was a critical force multiplier for Alexander. Not only did Alexander collect intelligence as he traversed through the Persian Empire, he sought information from literary sources such as Xenophon’s account of his march through Persia with the Ten Thousand.

Being a Founder involves learning new things everyday. Great Leaders always have great mentors and tutors behind them who make them shine in times of dire need. Every startup goes through rough patches, it is the one with biggest grit, determination and ambition deserves to become the ruler of its own Industry or market place.

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