Profile: Charlemagne

[May 02, 2015] The greatness of Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, is difficult to imagine for those of us who live in a relatively safe, modern world. Charlemagne was both a King and a military leader; roles that we rarely see held simultaneously today. Yet Charlemagne did so and was loved by his people.

Born sometime in the mid 700s, Charlemagne was highly respected. His desire was to keep his father’s kingdom united, which he did through military force and political alliances. In doing so he laid the foundations for modern Europe.

To create a kingdom from “an aggregation of small states was itself no great difficulty, but to keep the state intact … was a colossal task.”1 Charlemagne however managed to successfully rebuild much of the old Roman Empire since its collapse three centuries earlier and was crowned by the Pope as the first Holy Roman Emperor since the fall of the Empire.

It is of serious interest here in that Charlemagne’s characteristics are so similar to a modern leader; more so than we typically find:

  • Honest and Trustworthy
  • Aggressive and Cunning
  • Large physical presence (would strengthen those around him)
  • Unpretentious and self-contained
  • Feared by his enemies (called the “Iron Man”)
  • Cared greatly for his family (would not dine without one of his 18 children present)
  • Very religious as a Christian
  • Ability to compromise
  • Intelligent (introduced economic, political, and education reforms)

It should not be too surprising that great leadership characteristics have changed little over the recorded centuries. The many great leaders of old we read about in our history books lived in a time of brutality where life was short and hard. These leaders needed every advantage.

“From the lands where the sun rises to western shores, people are crying and wailing … the Franks, the Romans, all Christians, are stung with mourning and great worry … the young and old, glorious nobles, all lament the loss of their Caesar … the world laments the death of Charles … O Christ, you who govern the heavenly host, grant a peaceful place to Charles in your kingdom.” – Anonymous Monk

Charlemagne was smart, tough, aggressive, and cunning as much as he was a brilliant military leader. Best of all, he was able to earn the loyalty of his people because they believed he was devoted to their well-being. The fact that he could unify most of what is modern Europe speaks volumes about him.

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[1] Charles Edward Russell. Charlemagne, First of the Moderns, 1930.



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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