As I sit down to write this, I’m horrible jet-lagged and totally content with that! Why? Because I’ve just returned from a wonderful, three-week vacation in Europe. I toured many great European cities and along the way, I made a few connections between what I saw and learned to my world of leadership development. Who knew leadership lessons would abound?
Over the next few weeks, I promise to share many of them. For now, here are the first two European leadership lessons, thrown in with some fun facts:
Leadership Lessons from Rome: Roman Emperors Knew the Value of Semi-Live Communication
Did you ever noticed how many busts of famous Roman emperors survive to this day? OK, so until this trip, I didn’t either, but there are a lot of them!
We are used to seeing them as white marble, with slightly creepy looking eyes. At the time though, these marble busts were carved, brightly painted, and jewels inserted as the eyes. Their purpose? They were a substitute for the emperor and carried around the empire by messengers.
It was a 2000 year-old video message.
In my last post, Calls: Semi-Live Communication, I talked about the value of this type of communication.
Can you imagine the assembled crowd, called to gather by the blare of a trio of trumpets? They stood there silently, listening to the messenger’s strident tones and staring into the jewel-encrusted eyes of their emperor. It was a demonstration meant to make them feel as if the emperor himself was there speaking directly to them – and how powerful is that?
Lesson here is to give your communications a face along with a message. Your chances of the message being received as intended increase dramatically.
Leadership Lessons from Pisa: Architect Couldn’t Admit to a Mistake
To be fair, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was started in 1173, a fair bit before geology became a thing. However, by the third story, the architect KNEW there was a problem. What he didn’t know is that there is an underground river in the area that washes away the soil.
And he didn’t stop building, even when there was clearly a problem.
How many things in our modern world follow this pattern?
In his book Influence, Cialdini states that humans like to be consistent and will go to great lengths to appear as such. He writes “we all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided.”
This can be as simple as singing the praises of the new computer you just bought (after all, you clearly made the right choice!). Or as insidious as a person who makes a mistake and continues to compound it.
Can you imagine this poor architect (whose name is a mystery)? This tower was commissioned to show the world how powerful Pisa was, and, three stories in, it starts to LEAN?!? “Why of course I can fix this! You doubt me, the great architect?!?”
His internal consistency meter simply wouldn’t allow him to admit such a costly mistake. And, to add insult to injury, the tower includes a church and a baptistery, both of which lean as well!
Lesson here is an old adage: Don’t throw good money after bad. Ask yourself “knowing what I know now, would I still make the same decision?”
If the honest answer in “no”, then cut your losses and consider it a lesson well-learned.
That’s all the room I have for this week! The saga will continue, I promise.
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: Comment overheard in Rome “Why did the Romans build so many ruins?”