[April 23, 2014] It should be clear by now that great leaders (truly all leaders) provide an extraordinary level of motivation. When we look to history for examples of motivation, one of the most famous is the Islamic Commander Tariq. What he said to his men is something I learned in grade school history class (and probably all I learned about history).
His message (or was it a speech?) to his men made such an impression on me, that after all those years I still remember the general idea of what Mrs. Adams taught me in the 3rd Grade. I had no idea at my time in 3rd Grade the importance of what was said in April of the year 711.
In that year he landed his fleet carrying a huge military force (between 12,000 – 17,000) landing in what is now modern-day Spain (where he could see Gibraltar). His task was to conquer that territory. Once he landed, he took action and turned to his troops to make a historic speech:
“I have now burnt the ships, and now there is no return for us and here we will conquer or die fighting.” – Tariq ibn Ziyad1, Commander of the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Hispania
Commander Tariq certainly knew how to motivate – conquer or die. His troops went on to successfully conquer Spain (between 711 – 718) and it remained under Islam regulation (Shariah) using Caliphates for more than 800 years.
While there is no roadmap for providing motivation, senior executive leaders must be extraordinarily self-motivated and passionate in their role. That leader must know himself or herself, strengths, weaknesses, and possess a strong urge to achieve the organization’s mission.
What distinguishes the senior executive leader from all the others is that the senior leader provides the determination and motivation for other all leaders and senior leaders.
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 Source: by Mór Than (1828–1899) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but you, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy. If you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you is the disgrace from which you flee in dreams, and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freely to death. Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. During the attack I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least.”