Real Leaders

Alexander the Great portrait half profile

History records how Alexander the Great and his army were dying of thirst after marching eleven days. Suddenly they came upon some local farmers who were fetching skins full of water from a hidden river. Seeing the famous general choked with thirst, they offered him a helmet filled with water. He asked them to whom they were carrying the water. They told him, “To our children. But your life is more important than theirs. Even if they all perish, we can raise a new generation.”

Then Alexander took the helmet into his hands and looked around to see all his soldiers eyeing the water and licking their dry lips.  He did not have the courage to drink, but gave back the water untouched to the farmers. “If only I would drink,” he explained, “the rest of the soldiers would be out of heart.”

At that, the soldiers rallied around him as never before and defied their fatigue and their thirst. “To follow such a leader is a privilege,” they said.

A real leader never demands of his men what he will not bear himself.

— after William Barclay


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