- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (April 3, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312364695
- ISBN-13: 978-0312364694
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Xenophon's Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War Paperback – April 3, 2007
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“Xenophone's Cyrus--the earliest book on the subject--is still the best book on leadership.” ―Peter F. Drucker
From the Back Cover
The Iranians came to regard Cyrus as "The Father," the Babylonians as "The Liberator," and the Jews as "The Anointed of the Lord." The Greeks called him "The Law Giver," and, a century after Cyrus's death, an admiring Xenophon of Athens wrote an epic account of his many leadership principles at war and at peace.
By freshening the voice, style, and diction that Xenophon ascribed to Cyrus, Larry Hedrick has fashioned a more immediate Cyrus. A new generation of readers, including executives, managers, and military officers, can now learn from Cyrus's unparalleled leadership and wisdom in Xenophon's classic narrative.
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Top Customer Reviews
"It's impossible to pick one leadership book. Everyone's at different levels of experience and need. That's why you need 20 management buckets--and dozens of niche leadership books. Blah...blah...blah."
Then (gulp) this past January I read and reviewed The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World's Greatest Management Thinker, by William A. Cohen. Here is Peter Drucker's response to that question: "the first systematic book on leadership--the Kyropaidaia by Xenophon, himself no mean leader of men--is still the best book on the subject."
Kyropaidaia (or Cyropaedia) was also known as Cyrus the Great (c. 580 - 529 B.C.). Cyrus founded the Persian Empire in the sixth century B.C. by uniting the Medes and the Persians, the two original Iranian tribes. His empire "extended from India to the Mediterranean Sea and was the most powerful state in the world until its conquest two centuries later by Alexander the Great."
What did Drucker see in this remarkable figure? "The great Persian's astonishing military successes and mild rule provided just the kind of raw material that Xenophon needed to fashion his portrait of a human paragon."
Fortunately, Larry Hedrick, a former air force officer and military historian, has edited Xenophon's work (c. 431 - 355 B.C.) and crafted a stunning, page-turner leadership treatise.
Five chapters in the Old Testament, Ezra 1-5, salute the generosity of Cyrus the Great for liberating the Jews from Babylon and for his generous gifts for the temple in Jerusalem. According to Hedrick, the Iranians regard Cyrus as "The Father," the Babylonians as "the Liberator," the Greeks as "The Law-Giver," and the Jews as "The Anointed of the Lord" (see Isaiah 45).
So why did Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, call Xenophon's book (written 100 years after Cyrus died) "the best book on leadership?"
Start with more than 140 you-gotta-read-these subtitles (inserted into Xenophon's new abridged edition by Hedrick):
* Inspire Your People with an Enticing Vision of a New Order
* Know When to Keep Your Own Counsel
* Err on the Side of Self-Reliance
* Obedience Should Not Be the Result of Compulsion
* Imagining Disaster May Save You from Tragedy
* Exude Confidence, Not Anxiety
* Recognize the Inevitability of Conflict
And those are just samples from the first 33 pages. Cyrus the Great was a life-long learner--with unusual wisdom. "Let us remember our forefathers," he preached to his warriors, "but let us no longer exaggerate their virtues."
And this from Cyrus' father: "If you wish to be thought a good estate manager, or a good horseman, or a good physician, or a good flute player without really being one, just imagine all the tricks you have to invest just to keep up appearances. You might succeed at first, but in the end you're going to be exposed as an imposter."
Delivered like the off-camera color commentaries popular on TV sitcoms today, Cyrus' frank assessment of both allies and enemies is instructive--this one on Syazarees, his uncle: "He seemed only half awake to the extraordinary responsibilities of his office, and he exuded far more anxiety than confidence."
So Xenophon (channeled in modern leadership/management lingo by Hedrick) paints a leadership masterpiece with both subtle tones and bold smash-face war scenes. Whew! (Not what I was expecting!)
Most of my reading colleagues tilt towards the skinny management books, not 295-page tomes. But this is neither.
This is readable. This is exciting. Leadership, coaching, mentoring, innovation, psychology, motivation, crisis management, social styles, cultural hiccups. Plus: stunning acts of kindness. And generosity--AMAZING generosity. The case studies in generosity (on and off the battlefield) will shock you. Wow. Here's Cyrus on his favorite subject:
"Allow me to pause and emphasize this general rule: Success always calls for greater generosity--though most people, lost in the darkness of their own egos, treat it as an occasion for greater greed."
There's wisdom and insight on almost every page. More subtitles:
* Brevity Is the Soul of Command
* Address Different Audiences with Different Emphases
* Minimize Distinctions of Rank
* Create a Psychological Advantage by Seizing the Initiative
* Nip Ill-Advised Plans in the Bud
* Counter Demoralizing Words with Reasoned Argument
* Understand the Motivations of Your Followers
* Overconfidence Has Been the Undoing of Many
* Defeat the Foeman Known as Envy
* Convince Your People of the Benefits of Change
* Blessed Are Those Who Take the Initiative
There. These teasers should be enough for you to hit "purchase" at Amazon. But really--if Peter Drucker said it's "still the best book on leadership," what more do you need?
This has been a great read. If you enjoyed Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," then you would probably like this. That being said, the two are written very differently.
I have read an few translations of Sun Tzu's works, but none is as easy to read as this copy of "Cyrus the Great." The editor, Larry Hedrick, took some liberties to make this book easier to read but also made it less true to the original text. Chief among these liberties is Hedrick re-writing the text in first person (from Cyrus's perspective, not Xenophon's). Hedrick notes this change in the beginning of the book, but this text was not advertised as being such.
I have enjoyed reading this book, but because it has been so altered, I feel the need to buy another copy which is truer to the original text. That is my reason for rating this book 3/5 stars.
I don't know whether this is factual. I know that it is abridged and probably mistranslated over the centuries. These are minor issues regarding the validity of this book. Cyrus II lived. He created an empire. He released the Jews from their Babylonian captivity (the reggae tune on YouTube, "By the Rivers of Babylon," attests to the event as it paraphrases the psalm). I like best Hedrick's/Xenophon's characterization of Cyrus as a sympathetic, high touch/high task manager and leader. He comes across as humble, modest, caring and human. He is honest and circumspect in his calculations and manipulations. Managers in today's cynical business world would do well to emulate some of Cyrus's kinder traits.
The book may weigh down the interest of those who are not interested in military strategy, as some sections lean quite heavily towards that direction. However the last few chapters are just gold, leaving you with that warm, happy feeling as Cyrus leaves this world. The advice on principles of life imparted by Cyrus in the last few chapters are very insightful and speak to humans of all ages. He was truly a very insightful and ambitious man. As a previous reviewer has pointed out, the book portrays Cyrus as being an elitist whereas he had read in a history book of Cyrus being raised up by shepherds and being a man of the people. Im not sure which is correct, but Xenophons account is not a literal historical account of the man I believe, but more so a recount of the lasting legacy and impact he had as a leader to a land as far away as Greece, where Xenophon lived.
All in all it is a great account by Xenophon, with many insightful and inspirational one liners and principles, which really can be applied in all situations of life.