The Servant Dictator

servant leader
Cincinnatus

600 years before the Roman Empire ruled from the moors of Britain to the sands of Egypt, it’s predecessor, the Roman Republic, was almost destroyed. In 458 B.C. The neighboring Aequians attacked Rome—and the army sent to defend the fledgling city-state quickly found itself surrounded.

The city panicked. The Senate decided to appoint a strong leader with absolute power—a dictator—for a 6-month term. They chose Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus—a disgraced, bankrupted ex-politician who was forced to work his own farm west of the city.

Cincinnatus accepted the dictatorship and sprang into action. In a single day he raised, outfitted, and organized an army consisting of every able-bodied man in the city. He marched the army out of the city, rescued the besieged Romans, and defeated the Aequians at the Battle of Mons Algidus. Then, after returning to Rome in triumph, he did the most unexpected thing.

He resigned as dictator and returned to his farm.

Think of all Cincinnatus could have done with absolute power. Exacting revenge on his opponents in the Senate. Advancing this political agendas and causes. Regaining his social and economic status. But Cincinnatus saw his position as a service, not an opportunity.

All too often Servant Leadership is associated with being meek, democratic, or soft. Cincinnatus, the Servant Dictator, the reluctant—but ruthless—warrior, shatters all such notions. Servant Leadership is deeper than a style or approach—it’s a belief, a different way of looking at the whole concept of authority.

What does “servant leadership” mean to you?

8 thoughts on “The Servant Dictator”

  1. at first, “Servant Leadership” sounded like a contradiction in terms, but after reading your article, servant leadership means you have to be a great leader which often means making tough decisions that may not be popular, but you do these things because you are being a good servant. If only all servant leaders went back to the farm, this world would be a better place.

    Good Stuff G! I’m glad you went back to the farm…

    Miss you and the fam! Keep the articles coming – D

    1. Totally agree, Dan. Servant Leaders see their leadership—whatever form it takes—as an offering, a service. Nothing more; nothing less.

      Thanks stopping by and sharing—and thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Definitely sounds like one of the characters that composed the “Gladiator” Maximus’ composite character in the movie.

    Awesome, thanks for sharing. I like the notion of a dictatorial servanthood.

    1. Absolutely. Great point, Trent.

      I love that part of the movie when Marcus Aurelius asks Maximus to take his place when he dies. After Maximus replies, “With all my heart, No,” the Emperor responds, “Maximus, that is why it must be you.”

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