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Leadership Lessons from leadership stories: Crossing the Alps


Extract: 2 millenniums ago, in a time of uncertainty about the future of the Mediterranean world, Hannibal of Carthage (present day Tunisia) led an army from Spain, across the Pyrenees, across the Alps, in order to invade Rome. Possibly the greatest military undertaking ever, his contingent of 30 000 or more men and about 40 elephants had to contend with landslides, snow storms, hostile barbarian attacks, intense hardship. On the 4 month journey, some 15 000 men and nearly all the elephants were lost.
The Romans, expecting a Sicilian invasion, were caught totally off-guard by the overland invasion. The surprise effect, together with their unfamiliarity with elephants, put them at a tactical disadvantage. During his subsequent 15 year occupation of Roman territory, Hannibal mustered more followers, destroyed over 400 towns, and at least 30 000 Romans were killed in battle. He was eventually defeated when reinforcements failed to arrive.
How did Hannibal mobilise his very diverse follower-ship? How did he retain their loyalty and commitment during this mission - impossible, during which not a single mutiny took place? What were his leadership secrets?


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