Julius Caesar – My Part in his Rise to Power

September 17, 2010

It’s a well-known fact that Julius Caesar was a bit of a dab hand with the pithy quip  -‘I came, I saw, I conquered’ just one of a range of classics. In 49BC he stood with his army on the banks of the Rubicon river which served as the boundary between Gaul and Italy. Roman law forbade Roman generals from popping across the river with their armies. Such behaviour was viewed as an act of open war against the Republic. Not good form for any self-respecting republican general – unless, of course, your objective was to take over the joint.  Ambitious Caesar was not to be humbled by the fear of sparking a civil war – he took his chaps across and  – presumably for the tabloid journalists in tow – he shrugged his shoulders and declared ‘the die is cast’ as his horse drip-dried on the other side of the river. Pretty cool.

It’s not a well-known fact, however, that in a past life I was a Roman centurion. Now, I’ve learnt to keep this to myself. When I bring it up in the pub people tend to smile and then quietly slip away. Anyway, I happened to be with Caesar the night he reached the Rubicon and set up camp. Quite frankly the lads were a bit nervous – we mostly fancied heading back to the South of France. As I couldn’t sleep I had gone for a walk and heard some muttering coming from a tent. I popped my head in and there was Caesar himself – sitting on the floor sipping some cocoa.

‘Where did you get that?” I asked.

“What?”

“The Cocoa. We don’t get that in Europe for another 1500 years.”

“Whoops,” he replied, hiding the cup behind his toga and giving me a sheepish look. Then his eyes misted over and he started talking to himself – “Mmm, the river. The river. To cross or not to cross, that is the question, Mike…’  He paused for a second and looked at me suspiciously. ‘Funny name that?…Are you sure you’re a Roman?”

“Oh, yes, yes, yes,” I replied trying not to look sheepish myself.

He carried on – “What if it goes wrong? What if we cross the river and we all DIE!?! Oh, my. This is tough. Really tough! It’s nice on this side of the river. Lovely polenta. And Rome? Who wants to take over Rome? I mean – what’s so special about Rome? Let’s go back. But then again, the lads…oh the lads’ll be disappointed to have come all this way for nothing. Oh my. Where’s Brutus when you need him? Is it bath time? Nice bathie. With my little plastic …err wooden…duckie.”

I walked over and slapped Julius Caesar hard across the face. “Pull yourself together, man.”

That did the trick and the whole history of the planet was changed the very next day as we crossed the Rubicon with a nonchalent shrug and pithy remark.

Nobody wants an indecisive leader. And that’s as true for managers as it is for Roman generals and despots. We all have our late night cocoa moments – those moments of decision. But you’ve got to get over it. You’ve got to take your pick – make your choice –  and convince everyone else you know what you’re doing (even if you don’t).

Caesar could easily have ducked his moment of history – he would be nothing but a footnote now.

So the tip is simple – Managers, be decisive! Don’t keep toying with the die – roll it and cross the Rubicon – preferably with a smile and a bit of pith to gee up the troops. It’s your job to make decisions. You may as well do it in style.

Any comments?

One Response to “Julius Caesar – My Part in his Rise to Power”

  1. Tim Julian Says:

    Great stuff Mike – got my weekend started with a smile – and something to think about.


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