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5 Historical Figures to Inspire the Modern Leader



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Standing out at the front and leading can sometimes be a lonely station to hold. After all, an inexperienced leader must be able to develop their own voice, while trusting those around them enough to seek counsel for those difficult decisions. Neither of which are skills that can be developed overnight.

One of the most influential historical figures, Benjamin Franklin, developed his own solution to this problem. Franklin gathered up the works and writings of those that he looked up to, read and reread them and took incredibly detailed notes. 

By studying those who came before, Franklin was able to fashion himself into the man we know him as today. And just as he did, the modern leader can look back into the annals of history to draw inspiration from some of the greatest figures who’ve ever lived, just as we’ve done in this blog.

1. Sun Tzu – Observe & Adapt

Just as water changes course per its surroundings, a leader must learn and adapt to any situation – this could be mean responding to anything from the economic landscape to your competition’s activities. 

The much-celebrated Zhou Dynasty military leader, writer and philosopher, Sun Tzu remarked that a leader must observe their surroundings to ensure they can gain a greater understanding of what’s to come. 

Of course, The Art of War is written with the extreme backdrop of 500 BC China in mind, but Sun Tzu’s advice in its raw format still rings true for the modern professional: studying your environment, and your competition puts you in the best position to make the most of any opportunity.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu

2. Toussaint Louverture – Find Your Course & Remain Steadfast to its Outcome

A former slave, enthused by the principles of the French Revolution, Toussaint Louverture helped to defeat the European empires in San Domingo, now known as Haiti, and purge his colony of slavery. 

During the outset of the revolution, Louverture remained steadfast to one core ideal: to abolish the slave trade in the colony. To accomplish his goals, Louverture allied himself alongside the French and Spanish armies. Rather than simply associate himself under the flag of his nation, he fought alongside troops that shared his principles. 

To this end, Louverture was successful in his attempts to eradicate slavery by setting a course and doing whatever was necessary to ensure it was achieved in the end.

3. Nelson Mandela – Be the Shining Example Your People Need

Sometimes, pretending to be confident and courageous is confidence and courage. Nelson Mandela, known the world over, was rightly acclaimed as a fearless leader, even when he had every right to be genuinely terrified. 

In 1994, during his presidential election campaign in South Africa, Mandela was travelling in a small plane to give a speech to his Zulu supporters. When the aircraft was twenty minutes away from its destination, one of the engines failed; inciting panic.

However, when the other passengers of the plane looked over to Mandela, he sat quietly and calmly reading the newspaper. Eventually, the plane was successfully grounded, and the pilot had managed to get everyone to safety.

As for Mandela, he later confessed that he’d been just as scared as anyone else, but simply refused to allow the fear to overcome him, and by doing so he was able to keep the other passengers calm too. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to risk your life; instead, it means learning to deal with the fears and anxieties of the day-to-day world of running a business. Remember, courage is not an absence of fear; it’s inspiring others to move beyond it.

4. Abraham Lincoln – Think Before You Speak

Pointing out the mistakes of others is rarely a catalyst for change, and it seldom leads to learning anything worthwhile. Human beings aren’t driven by reason but emotion. So, a public dressing down is far more likely to reflect poorly on you – even if it is warranted.

Abraham Lincoln learned this lesson the hard way. In 1842, a young Lincoln publicly rebuked political rival James Shields during a debate on banking in Illinois. Lincoln’s posturing angered Shields enough to challenge Lincoln to a duel, in which the victor took the life of his opponent and the pride of victory.

Lincoln was saved only by the grace of a group of mutual friends, who sensibly talked Shields down. It was at this time that Lincoln realised his approach was making more enemies than friends. His new policy, which served him well during his time in the White House, was to understand what motivated his rivals, accept their shortcomings and dial back on the aggression.

In doing so, Lincoln’s reputation for understanding won him many admirers. In fact, the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, explains how Lincoln was able to turn many of his political enemies into members of his own cabinet. 

During the civil war, when someone spoke out against the Southern states, Lincoln simply said, “don’t criticise them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

“Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.” – Abraham Lincoln

5. Niccolò Machiavelli – Recruit the Very Best

To gain a better understanding of where you’re headed, you’ll need trusted people around you. In his famous work The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli maintained that in order to find the very best, you must first understand your own weaknesses. In a modern sense, this means you must understand where you could improve in order to successfully fill any skills gaps.

However, finding the very best isn’t enough, it’s vital that you learn how to get the very best from them, and in fact, how they can get the best of you too.

For Machiavelli, that translated into showing his advisors, he valued honest opinion, in a scenario where they would not be punished for offering it. In the end, though, he was the one taking that final step, saying “the first thing one does to evaluate a ruler’s prudence, is to look at the people around him.”

By surrounding yourself with the very best people, who aren’t afraid to give their opinions, there is no end to what you can achieve.

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20 Ways You Can Become a Powerful Communicator



Emile Steenveld Speaker and Coach

Some people seem to naturally know how to effectively communicate in a group setting. They can express themselves clearly and listen attentively without dominating the conversation.

Being a powerful communicator is important for several reasons, including building and maintaining relationships, achieving goals, resolving conflicts, improving productivity, leading and influencing others, advancing in your career, expressing yourself more confidently and authentically, and improving your mental and emotional well-being. Effective communication is an essential life skill that can benefit you in all aspects of your life.

But, don’t worry if you don’t naturally possess this skill, as effective communication is something that can be developed with practice, planning and preparation.

1.  Listen actively: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the speaker and responding to what they are saying.


2. Use “I” statements: Speak from your own perspective and avoid placing blame or making accusations.


3. Avoid assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.


4. Be clear: Express your thoughts and feelings clearly and concisely by getting to the point and avoid using jargon or overly complex language.


5. Show empathy: Show that you understand and care about the other person’s feelings.


6. Offer valuable insights: When speaking in a group, provide a valuable takeaway or actionable item that people can walk away with.


7. Be an active listener: Listen attentively and respond accordingly, incorporating your points into the conversation.


8. Choose the right time: Pick the most opportune time to speak to ensure that you have the group’s attention and can deliver your message without interruption.


9. Be the unifying voice: Step in and unify the group’s thoughts to calm down the discussion and insert your point effectively.


10. Keep responses concise: Keep responses short and to the point to show respect for others’ time.


11. Avoid unnecessary comments: Avoid commenting on everything and only speak when you have something important to say.


12. Cut the fluff: Avoid being long-winded and get straight to the point.


13. Prepare ahead of time: Sort out your points and practice them before speaking in a group.


14. Smile and be positive: Smile and nod along as others speak, to build a positive relationship and be respected when it’s your turn to speak.


15. Take responsibility: Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings.


16. Ask questions: Ask questions to clarify any confusion or misunderstandings.


17. Avoid interrupting: Allow the other person to finish speaking without interruption.


18. Practice active listening: Repeat what the other person said to ensure you have understood correctly.


19. Use your body language too: Use nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language to convey your message and build rapport.


20. Be aware of the tone of your voice: it should be calm and assertive, not aggressive or passive.


By keeping these tips in mind, you can improve your communication skills and become a more powerful communicator, which can help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a more fulfilling life.

I you want to learn how to become more confident in life then you can join my weekly mentorship calls and 40+ online workshops at so you can master your life with more success.

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