LATIN – THE LANGUAGE OF THE LAND OF GLADIATORS, ancient Rome. Though Latin is a dead language in the modern linguistic definition, yet it has greatly influenced the English language and contributed many important words to its lexicon.
In this article we’re going to talk about the most famous and classic Latin words in antiquity- “Vedi, Veni, Vici” which literally translates into “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
Who said these words? Why and when were these words said?
These immortal words were said by Julius Caesar, a Roman general and statesman.
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When Julius Caesar was in Egypt completely smitten by famed Pharaoh Cleopatra, he heard reports of problems in Asia. Reluctantly he traveled to Asia to challenge Pharnaces II, the son of Mithridates and king of Pontus. With just three legions at his side, he marched against Pharnaces army and defeated it in the Battle of Zela, an area that is today a province of modern Turkey.
The victory was swift and super-fast. It lasted mere four hours. So, to summarize his victory in the same short and swift manner, he wrote these words and sent them to the senate in Rome.
When Julius Caesar returned to Rome after this thundering win, a victory parade was organized in his honour. In that parade, these three words, “Veni, Vedi, Vici,” was inscribed on a large placard at the front of the parade.
The grace and pleasantness of these three words to the ears have impressed the historians for ages and so is its brevity. The power of these words was amazingly strong, capturing a complete event in a single sentence.
How can we apply these three words for real leadership?
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“Veni”- I came (Be present and Leading from the front)
The first lesson a student of leadership can learn from Julius Caesar was to ‘show up’ and be there.
During battles, he was always present at the front line constantly communicating and connecting with his troops. If a leader is on the front line among his people, it builds trust and admiration. This gave his troops the mentality that they were not fighting for him but with him. This mentality can make or break a team.
Leading by example is the difference between saying to your people, “Go ahead, you can do this” and “Come, let’s do this together.” Knowing that Julius Caesar was in as much danger as they were during a battle raised the morale of his men thus boosting their performance.
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To be a successful leader, you must be all present to make decisions as and when required. It also allowed Caesar to locate weaknesses and vulnerabilities in his strategy and thus take immediate decisions and correct any flaw therein before it was too late. Getting involved in the actual trade gives the leader a snapshot of the challenges that his people go through and help work out ways to make their work easier.
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Also remember this: Do not expect others to do what you would not be willing to do. Anything you expect and ask of your team, you should be equally comfortable doing yourself be it the dirty work.
Without getting into the moral aspect of it, Roman fighters were expected to kill army deserters by publicly beheading them. This was one of the most difficult tasks for a soldier to do as the deserter could be a friend or even a relative. Here too he led from the front and declared that he would himself do the dirty work by personally killing every tenth deserter.
As a leader before you move to “Vedi,” you have to physically, emotionally, and mentally show up, be present, and lead from the front.
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“Vedi”- I saw (See Opportunities in challenges)
In ancient Rome, generals were not allowed to bring forces past the Rubicon River in the northern part of Italy. To do so was akin to a declaration of war on the country. But he knew if he didn’t what awaited him in Rome- charges of sedition against him.
Knowing that opportunity many times is dressed in risks, he took the decision to cross the Rubicon River and put everything in the line of fire. And as he crossed the river, he said another famous line, “The die is cast.” It signaled that he and his men were now committed to either seizing power or facing total defeat.
He, “saw” a great opportunity wherein he could pose as the champion of his countrymen and loyal troops claiming to help the common people of Rome fight against the corrupt and arrogant senate. Well, he won the fight and went on to become the dictator for life of Rome.
As a leader ask yourself, “What is your Rubicon and how can you cross it?”
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Real and true leaders view challenging situations as opportunities, not problems. Instead of infecting people with fear and anxiety, they navigate them towards opportunities, inspiring them with excitement and hope.
Like Julius Caesar, many business leaders “Rubicon,” is the change in the landscape and the failure to adopt it. With the adoption of automated tools, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and emerging technologies changing the game, the pace and rate of change is increasing. But you need to take calculated risks to cross the Rubicon in order to achieve greatness.
So, before you move to “Vici,” a leader should learn to see opportunities in challenges and uncertainties.
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“Vici”- I conquered (Win and Victory matter).
Everyone loves a winner and loves to win with the winner. Though the ingredients of a successful leader are vision, intelligence, and courage, but no one will follow you till you can show that victory and win can be conquered. Will you want to follow a leader who keeps failing time and time again?
No! You may lose the battle but you need to win the war. Caesar, who led and won numerous military campaigns, showed with his ingenious strategies and tactics what it takes to win again and again.
It is important to recognize the victories he conquered, but more important is to recognize the little efforts and details that he undertook to reach his goals. He was bold and courageous, took many chances, gained trust and admiration from his men, made decisions and committed himself, and changed the landscape of Rome.
At the end of the day, what matters as a leader is that you came, you saw and you conquered.
I saw an image of an Irish T-Shirt saying the same in its language…
Tháinig Mé, Chonaic Mé, Bhuaigh Mé
How do you say ‘veni, vidi, vici’ in your language? How would you incorporate it into your leadership? Do let me know in the comments section below.