[February 20, 2015] An advantage in the study of great leadership is that sometimes we are provided with a historical figure and there is considerable documentation on his life. Such is the case with Richard the Lionheart, who ruled as King of England as Richard I.
Born 1157, Richard earned a number of titles as a relatively young man.1 Beginning with taking command of his own army at age 16, he was also the central Christian commander during the Third Crusade and achieved numerous victories over the famous Muslim commander Saladin.
There exists considerable medieval folklore and legend surrounding King Richard I. He earned the moniker “Richard the Lionheart” at the siege of Castillon-sur-Agen when his siege engines battered the defenders into submission. In many storytellings, King Richard I was a contemporary of and assisted Robin Hood. Today, there remains a fascination of Richard who is often portrayed as a good king.
His key senior leader characteristics were:
- Excellent military commander and strategist
- Brave and gallant as commander and as an individual soldier
- Bold but also subtle (often described as such by his Muslim opponents)
- Ruthless, brutal, and gave no quarter to his enemies
- Extravagant with poetical tastes
- Ambitious in the search of victory
- Adept at creating alliances with numerous kingdoms
- Keen ability to operate in complex political environment
These leadership traits are similar to many others documented here. Thus, leadership follows a clear trend where they demonstrate strength, adroitness, bravery, and an ability to make alliances. Extravagancies are often overlooked or accepted as a necessary part of their greater leader qualities.
“The glory that he sought was that of victory rather than conquest.” – William Stubbs, late-Victorian scholar
The reputation and historical accounts of King Richard I vary over his reputation in England and in France (where he spent most of his life). Yet the traits above are usually given without question. There is no doubt that he was a major unifying force and acted to rally his kingdom to defend and expand it.
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