Leadership Reflections

Book Cover, The Iron Hand of MarsIn this part of examining the issues raised in Lindsey Davis’s novel The Iron Hand of Mars, we will be taking a look at Leadership, or more specifically, leadership by historical and fictional characters as presented in this work of historical fiction. Due the nature of the environment (Rome and its military legions, and the activities thereof) observations about the nature of leadership generally, are raised.

You may wish to read The Iron Hand of Mars.


Book Cover, The Iron Hand of Mars

In this part of examining the issues raised in Lindsey Davis’s novel The Iron Hand of Mars, we will be taking a look at Leadership, or more specifically, leadership by historical and fictional characters as presented in this work of historical fiction. Due the nature of the environment (Rome and its military legions, and the activities thereof) observations about the nature of leadership generally, are raised.

Well, what is leadership? In modern parlance, we might take a simple example and say that management says a ladder has to be placed up against a wall. Leadership says, this ladder up against that wall. In order for the leadership to be able to lead and give directions, the leader has to attend to various needs, and we might summarise those as task needs, individual needs and group needs. And in order for the group task to be completed efficiently and effectively, all three needs have to be considered, prepared for and attended to.

functions of leadership

Leadership Functions

Leader Task Need Group Need Individual Need
Vespasian
(Emperor)
Secure peace in Germania Inferior Secure the loyalty of the XIV Gemina secure the loyalty of the Legate Gracilis
Florius Gracilis
(Legate, XIV Legio)
Reform Legion and provide stability Manage strong-headed legion Lead by example
Sextus Juvenalis
(XIV Prefect)
Preserve Face for the Legion Find the Legate Prevent information getting back to the Emperor
Camillus Justinus
(Senior Tribune,
I Adiutrix)
Provide solution to Veleda Provide escape for Falco and troops Appeasement of Veleda
Helvetius
Centurion
Transform recruits into soldiers Training assessment of recruits and their skills

Qualities of Leadership

If we took our metaphor of using modern parlance and the modern frame of reference further, then the issue of effective leadership arises. We could conceivably expect to have some measures of competency in the leadership task, and in the very person of the leader. What is competent leadership, what are its component parts?

The first critical component of leadership is knowledge. A person aspiring to be a leader leader must have three types of knowledge: knowledge of themselves (that is, their strengths and weaknesses), knowledge relating to his field of work, and knowledge of the social environment.

A good leader also has to possess what may be called individual character (or personal character) and national character. Eschewing selfishness, a true leader should be dedicated to the welfare of all and uphold the reputation of his country. He should march in front instead of issuing orders from behind. He should set the example by his actions. A true leader is the one who guides by his actions.

Leaders must have good character. Good character is determined by showing that the dots can be connected by what they think, say and do. This is unity of thought, word and deed, and thus, human integrity. Leaders have followers. No one will follow a leader sans good character and integrity. Falco, the Senior Tribune Camillus Justinus, and the Centurion Helvetius all give examples of men who lacked good character and integrity. Legions would not follow them. They speak of Legates being murdered, Prefects being forced to fall on their swords, and as the recent history of this era tells us, tyrannical emperors failing to gain the support of the Senate and the people of Rome.

SO we can easily see that good character, displayed as integrity, unity of thought, word and deed, is the sine-qua-non of leadership. We might then summarise all of this by saying a leader must first BE, then DO, then SEE what is needed, and finally, TELL what must be done. So we reverse the triangle and place the person of the leader and their character at the top.


aspects of leadership

Leadership Character and Actions

Leader To BE To DO To SEE To TELL
Vespasian
(Emperor)
Emperor for all
dignity, authority,
Decorum Needs of Germania Inferior Advises Falco about his task and commission
Florius Gracilis
(Legate, XIV Legio)
Virile sports; shouts a lot Yells at men, patronises mistresses, patronises Gallic potters Opportunity for excitement, thrills Does not tell; disappears and loses his life
Sextus Juvenalis
(XIV Prefect)
Backstop for Legate and Legion Prevaricate; preserve status quo Has to get the Legate back on deck Legio: Procure the Legate by any means
Camillus Justinus
(Senior Tribune,
I Adiutrix)
Senior Tribune; Behave and present as an officer Present honoris causa to Veleda Offers himself in exchange for others
Helvetius
(Centurion)
Example of Roman Soldier Provides examples of that behaviour needs of recruits to learn Drill, shape, form, guide, regiment

Let us look at an example from this era. The Batavian Revolt was led by Julius Civilis. Camillus Justinus is discussing this issue with Falco:

“You know, Julius Civilis is a member of the Batavian royal family. He spent twenty years in Roman military camps, leading auxiliaries for us. When the recent upsets started, his brother Paulus was executed as a troublemaker by the then Governor of Lower Germany, Fonteius Capito. Capito sent Civilis himself in chains to Nero.

Were they trouble makers at that stage?

The evidence suggests it was a trumped up charge, … Fonteius Capito was a highly dubious governor. You know he was court marshalled and killed by his own officers? He had a reputation for governing greedily, but I can’t tell you whether that was justified. Galba omitted to investigate his execution so perhaps it was.

The narrative is replete with examples of poor leadership (Petilius Cerialis, Varus, Galba, Otho, Vitellus, the headstrong XIV Gemina, and poor leadership by legion prefects such as Sextus Juvenalis and Poenius Postumus of the II Augusta). The legate Florius Gracilis, all virile sports and loud noise, loses his life by taking favours and not pursuing his duty and task. In large degree, the narrative is a fictional exploration of certain questions about the region arising from the histories of Taticus. Taticus himself records that Petilius Cerialis was “off with his fancy bit” the night his legion was attacked by Civilis and his barbarians.

There is a very strong characterisation of Q. Camillus Justinius, brother of Helena Justina and second son of the Senator Verus Camillus. It will be interesting to see if these strong qualities endure in this character in the other novels.

Leaders with good character and integrity can achive the task results and create an environment wherein all can experience the fruits of leadership. A good leader gives up any idea of self-satisfaction and possessiveness, and wins approbation by striving for the well being of society. As we have seen in this narrative repeatedly, effective leadership is critical to mission success.

Truth  is what we speak,

Right Conduct  is what we practise,

Love  is what we live,

Peace  is what we give,

Non-violence  is the fruit.