Are Leaders Born or are They Made? - The Case of Alexander the Great

What sort of leader was Alexander the Great? Charismatic and powerful? No doubt. Megalomaniac and cyclothymic? Maybe. This fascinating book from Professor Manfred Kets de Vries and Elisabet Engellau takes on the leadership question from another angle, with a clinical look at Alexander - his relationships, his successes and failures. A living legend that has endured for over 2,000 years, Alexander is put under the psychologist's probing eye to unravel what made him 'the Great'.

by Manfred Kets de Vries, Elisabet Engellau
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Alexander the Great's life has recently been transformed, yet again, into a Hollywood production. This time, with a swarthy Irishman as Alexander and a sultry young American actress in the role of his ambitious mother, Olympias. Looking at the unfavourable critiques received, rather than shelling out money on a perhaps dubious rendition of his life and personality, why not invest a similar amount and get something far more worthwhile... and lasting.

That something would be this book - Are Leaders Born or are They Made? The Case of Alexander the Great (also available in Dutch - Het Leidership van Alexander de Grote). Not only is there an easy-to-read overview of all the key events and people in Alexander's extraordinary life, (which would negate the need to sit through hours of an Irish Alexander with 3-day stubble), but also excellent references to source material for those wanting to know more.

And even better, we also get a long look into the workings of his head and his heart. What factors came into play that allowed Alexander to be such a powerful and unique leader, what could have possibly held him back from even further triumphs and what could have triggered some of his leadership errors.

Taking a clinical approach, INSEAD's Professor of Leadership Development and The Raoul de Vitry d'Avaucourt Chaired Clinical Professor of Management and Leadership, Manfred Kets de Vries puts all his professional weight into an incisive view of Alexander's psyche. With Elisabet Engellau, Kets de Vries takes readers on a psychologically guided tour of the short but very eventful three decades of Alexander's amazing life, examining the forces that shaped and motivated him.

As a learning tool, this book is invaluable. Alexander provides lessons in effective leadership as well as areas for introspection and question when things did not seem to go his way. Although this is a 2,400 year-old study area, the very force of Alexander's leadership makes him a timeless subject of interest, as Hollywood will certainly attest to. The application of clinical concepts such as psychotherapy and dynamic psychiatry allow the reader to appreciate in a more coherent and scientifically informed way, what made Alexander who he was and therefore what makes great leaders in general.

A truly valuable read for leaders, would-be leaders, management consultants, coaches and students and just about anyone who would appreciate an intelligent and educative portrayal of one of history's leadership giants - Alexander the Great.

Karnac 2004

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