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CEO or pharaoh ?

What we can learn from pharaohs for leadership

Ancient Egypt is inextricably linked to the image of the great pyramids of Giza. They are the symbol of precision, incredible organization and making the seemingly impossible possible.

Even as a child, this culture fascinated me incredibly and eventually led me to study Egyptology. In the course of this, I studied the religion, architecture, social life of ancient Egypt and also the construction of the pyramids. Among the 106 pyramids, the three great pyramids of Giza are the most famous ones. The Pyramid of Khufu, however, is the largest: almost three million blocks with a weight of 2.5 tons per block, a height of 146 meters and a surface area of 53,000 square meters!

Let's assume that you as a manager are given the task of building such a pyramid now and today: How would you plan and implement this gigantic project?

 

Key questions in today's leadership work

You are probably thinking now: "I don't have unlimited resources at my disposal like Cheops!" or "Slavery and whipping are not a management style!”

These objections catapult us within a second into the coaching and seminar rooms of the present time. In the last 25 years of my work with executives all over the world, I have repeatedly encountered these "Pain Points" when it comes to successful leadership.

Perhaps such sentences sound familiar to you too when it comes to projects, ideas and plans: "We have far too few resources. "My employees are already all at the end of their tether and I can't put anything on top of it." The question these managers ask themselves is: How can I make the best possible use of the available resources?

Or they hear sentences like: "I don't know what else I should do to get them more going" and "Now it's really enough with the cuddling course!” The question behind this is: How can I use my management style to ensure that my employees are motivated to create added value for the company?

Or: How can I, as a manager, provide the framework for my employees to enthusiastically make their contribution to success? These are all basic questions that successful managers ask themselves.

 

Inspiration from ancient Egypt

What can we borrow from the pharaohs to answers these questions? How was it possible for Cheops to successfully complete this almost impossible project - and that with the circumstances that prevailed some 4600 years ago?

An idea that was also pursued for a long time in Egyptology is the division into clear hierarchical structures and the exercise of power. People are simply forced to make their contribution. Pressure, fear and loss are used as levers to achieve results. This only works, however, if one can fall back on an infinite number of workers and if they are easily replaceable. This means, therefore, that the activity must be less complex and quick to learn.

For some years now, however, we have known that the people who built the pyramids did so voluntarily and with pleasure. So what did the pharaohs do? They managed to make people want to be part of this project. They awakened the enthusiasm and the desire to be part of something big, to make a value-adding contribution. For the most part, the workers were highly specialized experts who had a great value in this system, in other words, they were held in high esteem. It was therefore very desirable to acquire knowledge but also to share knowledge in order to develop enough successors and good workers. Everyone, no matter where they were, in which role and task, anticipated the result and experienced themselves as belonging to a functioning system.

How can this succeed today? The pyramids stand for a great vision, which through cocreation, a high level of expertise and motivation have become buildings that have survived the millennia.

As a leader, create a strong vision that you actively share with the people you work with. Combine these ideas with strong positive emotions to cognitively reach and emotionally touch your employees.Create a framework where people recognize the purpose of their work and know what contribution they make to the overall success. In this way the employees experience themselves as belonging and the readiness for committed cooperation and cocreation increases. Encourage strengths and provide space for the development of expertise and commitment. Create transparency as to what constitutes good performance and how it is measured.

When people recognize the added value that they create through their work and also recognize and appreciate that of others.

Finding the right momentum in the tour is an exciting expedition. For more than 25 years I have accompanied leaders and their teams in all corners of the world in exploring this momentum. As a mother of 5 children and passionate entrepreneur, it is in my DNA to find exactly these levers in coaching, workshops and trainings and to use them for development.

It is the balance between many proven methods (a big toolbox) and the individual way to experience oneself as an effective leader and also to courageously tread new or different terrain. Everything we do in our different roles has an impact. Therefore, it makes sense as a manager to sometimes take the time to look, reflect and decide, because the resulting actions are a value-adding multiplier for the company.

Claudia Lierl's E-Nugget

 

"In her 25+ years of experience as a leadership trainer and coach around the globe, Claudia Lierl worked with hundreds of leaders on their rhetorical fine-tuning and finding individual strategies to deal with challenging communication situations. Other focus topics are emotional intelligence, change management, agile leadership and conflict management."

CLAUDIA LIERL
Coach & Leadership Expert

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