If you’re looking for entrepreneurial role models, you could certainly turn to figures such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey. But Steve Forbes, the editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine and the author of Power Ambition Glory, says that there is much today’s entrepreneurs can learn by studying the triumphs and failures of the world’s ancient leaders.
Forbes, who will discuss this topic at Synergy Global Forum 2017, posits that the most effective leaders are the ones that build structures that outlast them and understand that “success is ephemeral and you may achieve something great, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to suffer setbacks tomorrow,” he says. “As my father liked to say, if you think you’ve arrived, you’re ready to be shown the door.”
This year, Forbes Magazine celebrated the 30th anniversary of its yearly ranking of the World’s Billionaires. Forbes tells Entrepreneur that he believes these billionaires all have one thing in common.
“They’ve identified a need that hadn’t been met before or did it in a way that hadn’t been done before,” he says. “Success in free markets comes from meeting the needs and wants of other people, even if they initially didn’t know they needed what you are offering. It’s not greed, it’s not selfishness, it’s making an offering and people responding positively to it.”
Forbes says that to him, success simply means drawing on your strengths to make a positive and inspiring difference in the world.
Go your own way.
“You have to be an innovator to be a truly effective leader. You can’t do what everyone else does. [Ancient leaders] did things in a high risk way, [like famed Carthaginian general] Hannibal going over the Alps to invade Rome instead of from the south, as the Romans thought he would do.”
Keep the lines of communication open.
“Alexander the Great became very isolated. He began to think he was an actual god and began to brook no dissent and began to purge anyone who he thought wasn’t 100 percent on board. As a result, he was poisoned by his own generals because they thought it was just a matter of time before he’d kill them.”
Learn how to delegate.
“You must keep track of things, but you must also give responsibility to others. You can’t do it all yourself. Even if you know you can do a particular job better than someone else, you may let that someone else do it because your time is better spent on other things.”
Be prepared for things to go wrong.
“No matter how smart you are, no matter how on top of the game you are, you will make mistakes. Events will sometimes overcome your own plans. So whether it’s your fault or outside events or a combination, you have to be prepared to deal with situations that are crises and for which there may be no playbook. You have to truly respond in a way that you’re going to be alone. And if it goes well you’ll have plenty of others willing to take credit. And if that doesn’t work well you will be very much alone. So that’s why they call it loneliness at the top.”
Read more: Entrepreneur