Lessons in Leadership from the movie Gladiator

As discussed previously, the movie Gladiator was used as a tool from which to draw powerful leadership qualities. Looking further into the story line, several other lessons can be extracted. It is interesting to observe the two opposing leadership styles displayed by the two key characters, Maximus, the Roman general, and Commodus, the dark and scheming emperor.

Commodus is the supreme leader of all of Rome. He has immense power and uses his position as emperor to command and lead. People follow him for several reasons; they serve him for the potential gain they may acquire, or out of fear of retribution. The more pervasive reason the people follow Commodus is out of fear rather than loyalty.

Maximus, on the other hand, has no formal position later in the movie; he is just a gladiator. Yet amongst the other gladiators it is clear they respect him for his capabilities, his honor, and his sincerity. “Strength and honor” is a common theme observed throughout the movie. They trust him.

In the scene where they must fight as a group against charioteers, Maximus immediately assumed command, giving clear direction which the other gladiators followed, resulting in a victory and success. They trusted him in this life or death situation which led to admiration and respect. They followed his lead and it saved their lives.

Command and control structures which use fear as a basis can work, but do not breed loyalty. This can be observed at the end of the film when Commodus is stripped of weapons and calls out to his guards for assistance. They have the option to help him when he truly needs it, when his position is virtually torn away, and no one chooses to help him.

Great leaders have heart. They inspire others on a deep level to be better. They are firm and unyielding in their principles and somehow know, despite the odds and challenges, which direction to move toward. The confidence, the certainty, and the perseverance that can be observed in Maximus’ character can and will help any individual become a better leader in the business world.