Business Strategy through the exploits of Alexander the Great

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This is the first principle of strategy. To achieve great victories, you must be
clear about your goals and objectives at every level of the business. This
requires that you know exactly what it is that you want to accomplish and
how you are going to go about accomplishing it.

Introduction to Strategy: Alexander the Great

Let me introduce you to the finest strategist that ever lived. In a way, he was a man who started off as a junior manager in a large organization and worked his way up. His name was Alex. Alex’s father was the head of the organization and also worked his way up from the ground floor.

Alex very much admired his father, learned a lot from him, and studied under him when he was growing up. He had great dreams and aspirations of building a big organization—far bigger than the one his father oversaw.

The Alex that I am referring to is Alexander of Macedon, who became known as Alexander the Great. He was one of the first and the few men in all of human history to be called “the Great” in his lifetime and throughout
the rest of history.

An Unexpected Promotion
When Alexander was 20 years old, his father was murdered. Alexander immediately became the king of Macedon.

The Macedonians were a tribe in northern Greece in what is present-day Macedonia. They were a tough, hardy, militaristic race. Under Philip, Alexander’s father, they had conquered and ruled all of Greece.

Within Alexander’s household, within his army and the army of his father, and among the other tribes of Greece, there were an enormous number of enemies or “market competitors” for Alexander’s position. As soon as he became king, Alexander discovered that there were several plots and conspiracies internally being organized to kill him and free the citystates of Greece from Macedonian rule.

Leaders Take Command
Alexander immediately took command, as a leader does. He first of all put down the disloyal elements in his own army. He then reorganized his army quickly, put his own generals and officers in place, and then marched out and demolished the armies sent against him. As a result of these immediate and surprising victories, he became the recognized and accepted master of all of Greece, at age 21.

Alexander, like all strategic planners, had a mission. His was quite ambitious. He wanted to bring Greek culture to the entire known world. His long-range strategic plan was to conquer all these countries and put them under Greek rule.

Merger and Acquisition Strategy
Alexander was very smart. He did not disrupt the kingdoms that he conquered. He used the first historical version of a “merger and acquisition strategy.” If they surrendered without fighting, he would leave their rulers in place. All he requested was that they pay a tribute to Greece each year, very much like a corporate income tax, and then they could go on as before.
Only now, they were under the protection of the Greek empire and the Macedonians.

Alexander went even further. He would invite the soldiers of the newly conquered kingdoms to join his army and participate in the rewards that came from conquering other lands.
As Alexander moved farther south toward and through the Middle East, more and more kingdoms and tribes came and joined him. They gave up without a fight and became part of his armies. But there was still one problem.

The Major Competitor
Alexander’s major competitor for world domination, the biggest empire in human history at that time, was led by Darius of Persia. This empire was enormous. It covered all of the Middle East, including the Mediterranean, and extended as far as present-day Pakistan and India.

When Darius heard that a Greek army under a 22-year-old commander had invaded his empire, he was not pleased. Darius, too, was a smart man. He recognized that Alexander was the first real threat to his power in his lifetime. He quickly ordered an army of 50,000 to advance against Alexander’s 22,000-man army. They were told to go and crush this upstart once and for all.

Alexander, anticipating that Darius would come against him, planned out a brilliant strategy and routed the army that was sent against him.

Upon hearing what had happened, Darius said, “This is serious. This is the biggest single threat to my power in my lifetime and it must be dealt with, or there will be challenges to Persian rule all over the empire.”

Competitive Response
Darius was also quite competent at strategy. He sent out messengers to the dozens of different tribes throughout his empire and ordered them to send their best troops to assemble at a place called Gaugamela. He had brought together the biggest army that the world had ever seen—almost a million men. In all of history, up until World War II, there had never been an army this large assembled in one place.

When Alexander heard that Darius had assembled his massive army at Gaugamela, he immediately broke camp and marched toward the army of Darius. Alexander and his army of now 50,000 men (including soldiers from other conquered armies who had joined his ranks) arrived on the battlefield so quickly that it shocked the Persian forces, at least temporarily.
Everyone knew that the next day they would be fighting one of the biggest battles in history.

The Importance of a Plan
Alexander was a great communicator. That evening, he gathered all of his commanders around his fire to explain to them exactly what he was planning to do the following day. He explained that the army of Darius was not really one single army. It was instead a whole series of small and large armies. It was made up of thirty different tribes composed of troops and levies from all over the empire, each with different languages, different cultures, different orders of battle, different religious rites, and different military structures of command. The only thing they had in common was loyalty to Darius.

Alexander believed that if something were to happen to Darius tomorrow, the rest of the armies would not stay and fight for each other; rather, they would begin to come apart, retreat, and take off in all directions.

His plan: Attack into the center of the Persian defenses and kill Darius.

Take the Initiative
The day of the battle, Darius lined up his army like a massive wall of humanity—a million men to move forward to crush and overwhelm the Macedonians.

Alexander had lined up his army a little bit differently. He used a strategy that had never been seen in battle before: the “oblique formation.” Instead of facing the army of Darius parallel to their front, his troops were lined up at an angle and to the right of the center of the army of Darius, giving them more maneuverability.

Then, just before the battle began, Alexander ordered his army to begin moving to the right, toward the rough terrain where his soldiers and cavalry would have an advantage and the chariots of Darius could not function.

As Alexander moved his army sideways, Darius was confused. He ordered his army to move sideways as well to maintain their front facing the Macedonians. Being ordered to shift sideways rather than to attack forward caused some confusion in the ranks of the Persian army.

Then Darius ordered his first line of attack—his chariots—to charge the Macedonians; they were met with a shower of 2,000 javelins from the Macedonians, which incapacitated or destroyed half of the chariots. In all this confusion, the army of Alexander continued its rightward march.

The army of Darius continued to move rightward to try to stay parallel with the forces of
Alexander. Suddenly, a crack opened up in the front line of the Persian army close to where Darius was directing the battle.

Alexander saw that his critical moment was now. Taking advantage of the confusion and the dust cloud caused by the panicked chariots, he recognized his opportunity. He turned to his companion cavalry and said,
“Come on! Let’s go and kill Darius!”

He then charged headlong into the center of the Persian army. This was a brilliant strategy. The only part of Darius’s whole Persian army that could resist Alexander was the small contingent of troops directly facing him. All the rest of the million-man army was unable to intervene. They had no one to fight against.

Do the Unexpected
Darius was shocked. He had not anticipated this direct attack aimed squarely at him. With Alexander in the lead, the Macedonian cavalry was slashing through the front ranks of the Persians and heading straight for the command post of Darius. Darius jumped on a mare and fled from the battlefield surrounded by his senior officers.

The rest of the Persian armies had no idea what was going on amid all the dust and confusion. But the rumor went out quickly that Alexander had broken through the center of the army and that Darius had fled.

Alexander’s strategy had been correct. The Persian armies began falling apart; they scattered and took off in all directions, falling over each other to get away. At this point, Alexander, who had anticipated this course of events, sent orders to his troops to begin their advance. The body of his army, known as the phalanx, armed with swords and spears, began to march through the Persian ranks like a hay-making machine, mowing them down by the thousands.

One Great Strategy Changed the World
By the end of the day, the Persians had lost 400,000 men. It was one of the most disastrous battles in all of human history. The Macedonians under Alexander lost 1,247 men. And Alexander, at age 23, was the undisputed
master of the entire world.

Excerpts from Brian Tracy’s Book titled Business Strategy 

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9 thoughts on “Business Strategy through the exploits of Alexander the Great”

  1. Wow! It’s really interesting studying from this article. ‘Business strategy through the exploits of Alexander the Great’ I have learnt to think outside the box in any situation I find myself.
    All thanks to you ‘Akin gbogun’.

  2. Yinka Elegbede

    I know I’ve seen the movie but this short epistle definitely throws more light into Alexander’s thoughts. Great read. Thanks ☺️

  3. Oluwaseun Akanji

    One major thing I take from here is how Alexander was a great communicator and he took advantage of the opportunity he had…thanks for sharing this piece Akin

  4. No doubt he was a great strategist and planner. We need to adopt some of his strategies in business.
    He that fails to plan, plans to fail.
    Is it true as great as he was Alexander, the great was killed by mosquitoes?
    Just like the great Titanic ship sunk to the bottom of the sea after striking an iceberg in 1912.

  5. This if put into practice will definitely impact on one’s ability to adapt to so many changes at a time.

    Great job Sir… We are really appreciating all your bullets

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