Seven Leadership Strategies of Hannibal


Often overlooked in history classes, Hannibal may have been the greatest military strategist of all time. His strategies were studied by Julius Caesar, Saladin, Robert E Lee and General Patton. Hannibal was a masterful motivator and seemed to always find a way out of predicaments with stunning efficiency. Contemporaries of Hannibal seemed to really like being around him and under his leadership. Given our historical view of the military battles of the classical Greeks and Romans, Hannibal stands out for his indomitable will to win, and to be seen as a winner by friend and enemy alike. Here are Seven Practical Strategies to Turn the Negative into the Positive, using Hannibal's examples.

Positive Thinking - Positive Results!

Do you ever find yourself asking ''Why does this happen to me?'' I have always said, 'Be careful when asking yourself questions, because you might get a lot of answers that you don't want.'

Negative thoughts become obstacles to your success. Think about this - with every negative thought, you are eliminating options and diminishing possibilities. We are actually enclosing ourselves into the small box of self-doubt.

Hannibal's first major victory was at Saguntum in 219 b.c, The city is located in Spain-not far from Barcelona, and was a vital source of metals being mined in the Pyrenees. Hannibal knew he was outmanned and had to overcome a heavily fortified position that was well known to the Romans. Hannibal marched around and around the fortified city walls with intermittent attacks for eight months. It drove the Romans Saguntine population to speculate and panic.

Likewise, When negative thoughts encircle us, we often over-react, losing control over our emotions, and then rendering the situation more hopeless. We will often make even worse decisions when given these feelings.

The inhabitants of Saguntum could only look out and see the Carthaginians. Their focus was on what was bound to happen next, and Hannibal learned to exploit their uncertainty with surprising ease. The lesson is to understand that the more we focus on the enemies of happiness and success, the less happiness and success we will see. The enemies begin to win and pretty soon you find yourself surrounded by defeat instead of victory.

A positive mind-set translates into possibility and gives us room to maneuver and to make sound and strategic decisions.

A positive mindset means turning chaos and confusion into direction and focus.

The negative thoughts that sometimes enter into our minds causes confusion, denial and eats away at our smile, our happiness, and our faith. Hannibal developed such animosity toward the Romans that it became a mission to defeat them. Hannibal was a member of the Barca family, a long line of successful and well regarded military heroes, and he saw himself as inheriting this trait. To Hannibal, being a victor was pre-destined, pre-ordained, and part of his blood line. That is having the pinnacle of faith and belief in the things yet to come.

Having Faith is a MUST. See yourself as having WON already. See yourself as a WINNER, as a Royal Blood-line, as a preordained and pre-supposed victory. Claim your victory - and celebrate like a victor. Walk in happiness and confidence.

The battles of daily life are not something we easily see. They are not always directly in front of us or on a battlefield. These battles often happen in the abstract space defined by your thoughts and energy and are disruptive to your everyday activities.

So - How do we Overcome the Negative?

1) Focus on the Strengths you already have. Hannibal was known to use elephants in battle against the Romans. As so often the case, the myth is far greater than the truth, and although Hannibal DID use elephants in his early battles, they were of little use to him through most of the Second Punic War with Carthage. But that didn't stop him from bringing the focus of his war-ready elephants to each battle.

The Roman writer Livy writes that the Roman cavalry was ''trampled'' by the elephants and the enemy broke ranks and refused to engage Hannibal outside the city walls after the first battle had been lost. Hannibal took these docile creatures and brought them into a great state of agitation and fury. He did this by giving them figs to eat, causing the elephants to get annoying and painful rashes on their skin. Then he sleep-deprived them, ordering the horns be blown at all hours of the night in order to keep them awake. Finally, he gave them large amounts of alcohol before battle.

Future Roman strategies had to take into account the possibility Hannibal would bring these elephants with him into each battle. In fact, only a few survived the trek up the mountains and those that made it into the Roman countryside were emaciated and sick from disease. But the legend arrived before the enemy did, often causing the Romans to act out of fear than out of confidence. And this cost the Romans time, energy and resources. Take the strengths you have and focus on them!

If you are highly intelligent, take the negative thoughts and weigh that against the things you know. If you know you have an incredible work-ethic, focus upon the things that have motivated you in the past and build upon them. If you have the gift of laughter, use your own sense of humor to diminish a bad situation and make it more manageable.

2) Remember the Blessings. Upon his victory at Cannae in 216 b.c., Hannibal surveyed the battlefield. His army of less than 30,000 men decisively destroyed a Roman army that was almost TEX times the size of the Carthaginians. The Romans were effectively eliminated as an offensive fighting machine for nearly a hundred and fifty years. He walked around the gory battlefield, taking all the gold and silver rings off of the Roman officers bodies and sent nearly half a ton back to Carthage. He took one item for himself, a plain silver dagger with the blood of a mercenary soldier of Carthage who was from Gaul. One of must have wondered how he looked upon the huge battlefield at Cannae and absorbed the news of his own victory. But one can imagine.

Each night I write down the things I am most happiest for, making sure not to repeat the previous day's entry. Good things happen each and every day, but we need to STOP and recognize them before they slip away and become forgotten.

3) Think of the most impossible of ways out of your situation. Hannibal's ability to endear loyalty was a strength that no other general, perhaps ever, has been able to achieve. He fought in the middle and in the front, NOT with Carthaginian soldiers, but with paid Mercenaries. It made them steadfast and loyal and it actually forced Rome into a radical change of their own laws. Due to the popularity Hannibal had with traditional enemies, Rome offered citizenship and government lands to the Sammites, the Lombards, and later, the Goths. Hannibal didn't merely break the existing rules of engagement; he changed the rules themselves. He came up with schemes so outrageous in their design that some of his men began to deduce that Hannibal had lost his mind. But they worked. And they will work for each of us!

When you are in the middle of a tough situation - it can be daunting to push the negative thoughts aside. One of the best ways is to think of the most far-fetched way out of your situation and then think tactically as to how to accomplish this. Shoot higher, shoot further, and shoot beyond what anyone else would consider normal.

4) Create as many solution possibilities from every angle possible. With a restless energy to wrangle out of bad situations, Hannibal told his generals to think of the improbable ways - not JUST to get out of a situation, but to BE VICTORIOUS in doing so.

All too often we have a great opportunity slip away from us because we began to see the obstacles in the way. Pretty soon, you have lost the big picture and only realistic way to overcome your situation. Look at your situation from the viewpoint of a rival, a competitor, a best friend, a spouse, a firefighter or even a doctor. How would THEY deal if given the same set of circumstances? (I have been told this is a VALUABLE piece of advice!)

In sales, if you have a customer who isn't willing to buy what you are offering, think of every reason that the customer would want what you are selling. The more possibilities that you encircle the enemy of negative thoughts, the more surrounded and manageable they become.

5) Remember- Enclose your thoughts of worry, defeat, and the ''What If's'' with the ideas of ''Faith, Victory and When's'.'' Do not let anything rob your joy and happiness. But remember that the power of surrounding your negative thoughts with possibilities and options is purely psychological. Making the negative thoughts ''vulnerable'' to defeat by attacking them on as many sides possible.

6) Envision Success and Think Strategically: Hannibal was undeterred by losses in the battlefield. He took the war to Rome from one end of the Italian peninsula to the other. At times, his victories came at a huge cost. At other times, he was certain to have lost battles when he would quickly engage in a ceasefire and the willingness to eek out a draw or a stalemate in the face of a certain defeat. This kept the morale of the men high, knowing that they wouldn't be sold into slavery when they lost. A draw meant they could reconvene and fight another day. Hannibal saw far beyond the many battles he would fight and continued to refine his view of the ''bigger picture.'' It is why he is listed amongst the very best of strategic generals in all of history.

Get away from the day-to-day reaction to events - the ones where we simply wait and let the results happen to you. For me, that has been the one thing I am still working on. When faced with a difficult series of challenges, the best way to ascertain power is to envision the outcome and make your days a conceptual framework of what you want to accomplish.

7) Finally- Be free of conflict with others: No matter how strong you are, fighting battles with people is exhausting, costly, and unimaginative. If you have people opposing you or in any other way creating conflict, find ways to maneuver into a position where your opponents believe that taking you on will be futile. Create maneuvers that give your opponents choices that YOU want - not what THEY want. If all else fails, separate yourself from the soap operas and extract them from your circle of friends.

Let's face it, we ALL have had THAT someone who brought gossip and negativity into our world, and instead of rejecting their nonsense, we actually liked it, and perhaps we even partook in some of it! In order to win however, these influences have to be extracted because of the mental and emotional resources it robs you of.

Hannibal continued his campaigns throughout the Roman countryside by continuing to force the Romans into the choices he wanted them to make, and he repeatedly defeated them. Only when the Carthaginian politicians became corrupted and pro-Roman did Hannibal lose his power. Even up to the end, he brought the war to the Romans, surprising them with a land invasion from BEHIND their strongholds. Despite having over 250 naval vessels, he seldom used them, preferring to take the war into the heartland of Rome - against ALL conventional wisdom and against ALL odds.

Some people look at the world around them and their own chaotic lives and ask ''Why?'' But people who regularly overcome look at the possibilities around them and ask 'Why Not?'' To which category are you determined to belong? ######

I hope this was interesting to you and I welcome your feedback!

These are SEVEN methods to ELIMINATE Negative thoughts and replace them with the Positive. Do you have some additions? Suggestions? Do you think these will work for you?

Robert Bluestein


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