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I, Claudius & The Key to Effective Leadership

claudiusTaking your time, not hurrying, and waiting for things to happen in just the right way can seem like a herculean challenge, especially for impatient types like myself. Yet, a little patience can pay off in big ways.

Cynics and anxious types should read Robert Graves’ classic novel, I, Claudius, for proof that the waiting game can really be a winning game.

I, Claudius tells the story of the rise and fall of the Roman Emperor’s Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius through the eyes of Claudius himself.

The bloody, exciting, and sweeping book begins with Claudius describing his bad limp, his stammer, and his awkward frame. His list of deformities makes him the royal clown, but they also give him the chance to follow ugly court battles and intrigues unscathed.

Claudius watches Augustus closely, making sure his powerful wife Livia (in video below), the poisoner, spares his life. With Tiberius, he makes sure to avoid his murderous, senseless, treason trails. Living in the same house as Caligula, Claudius forces himself to see past madness, lewdness, and handicapping decadence in order to survive.

While Claudius’ family and close friends are caught up in a tornado of royal whims and military campaigns he remains alive by burying himself in books and acting the fool around jealous and suspicious personalities. Claudius’ ability to bide his time and match the wallpaper help him preserve his place in Roman history as the Emperor of Rome from 41 to 54 A.D.

Leadership Isn’t a Race

The lesson, recited powerfully, is that rushing to power, hurrying for public affection, and petitioning for attention can lead to mistakes, failures, and unwanted competition. Effective leaders, from time to time, need to be reminded that acclaim, popularity, and power aren’t something you should rush to acquire–they are something you have to develop over time.

Jockeying for more control, expanded authority, or for your first managerial job shouldn’t be about speed. It should be about comparing what you know and your capabilities against the challenge at hand. If your skills are found wanting take more time to develop them. A better title, a promotion, and increased responsibility are nice, but they don’t always augment your competence.

When considering accepting more responsibility make sure you are ready for it and able to handle the repercussions. If you are unsure, watch the clock and develop the skills you need instead of being a lame duck. Like Claudius himself said, “No one is more miserable than the person who wills everything and can do nothing.”

*Note: The facts and information in I, Claudius is (mostly) supported by the real history and its authors. Robert Graves elaborates certain speeches, character profiles, and other scenes to make the story more entertaining and linear. Its sequel, Claudius the God studies the reign of Claudius and Herod.

Clip from the TV Series, I, Claudius:

Picture Credit:



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