Alfred's modern leadership lessons
It is Alfred’s feast day, so it's a good day for looking at his leadership lessons, which are brilliant and modern, and particularly applicable to those trying to free Britain from the EU. Alfred translated books from ancient cultures which fed his own culture. He was not a multiculturalist because he had enough to do understanding his own culture and because his people could not live with a hostile culture that attacked them. Somehow he managed to transcend chronic physical pain and devastating loss to create the peaceful kingdom of Wessex. In our opinion Alfred's leadership lessons are -
1) Alfred told the truth, kept his promises and treated others fairly. Men trusted his word. They trusted him.
2) He was physically active and tough. Today, science reports that people who exercise “grow” their brains. A sound mind does in fact need an exercised body.
3) Alfred took time to think. He respected ideas and books, and shared his love and respect with others. Since there was no one else to do it, he actually found time to translate books. He understood that thoughts are invisible acts that shape the visible world.
4) He was willing to die for what he believed. He could have fled across the Channel to Frankia, or to Rome, like other Anglo Saxon kings. Instead he faced the enemy. He did not ask his people to die for him. He prepared to die for them. He shared the pain, starvation, and fear of his people.
5) He organized methodically and acted swiftly. He could not let the Danes grow stronger and bring even more warriors to England to overwhelm Wessex. He had to destroy their army while he still could, before the summer came. Because most of the men in his army were farmers he had to fight when they could leave their farms.
6) He made the reason for his cause absolutely clear. This was not so very difficult since the Danes repeatedly made the case for him. Alfred made agreements with the Danes three times. Three times they broke their word. In 878 they showed their true colours by attacking his court at Chippenham, and bringing fire and the sword to Wessex, from Devonshire to Hampshire. More significantly this time the Danes did not retreat to their ships with their plunder. They began to seize and parcel out land.
Making the cause clear is more difficult with the EU, which is a stealthy oppressor. So the case and the alternative have to be made repeatedly, statistically and personally using every conceivable forum. (As an adviser once told a US President, only when you are completely sick to death of repeating the same speech will the American people hear you for the first time.)
7) Alfred showed up. He had two rare qualities - he was fiercely determined and humble.
8) He kept everyone working together. He communicated clearly. He understood what it meant to be and act like a king.This is where clear lines of authority are distinctly helpful. Alfred did not have dozens of earldormen and reeves jostling for primacy. He was the king, and when his orders came in writing with his seal, his people obeyed, and the fyrds turned out.
Does this sound like an old-fashioned idea, or a modern one? Today every successful private or non-profit enterprise is ruled by a CEO. He or she is advised by a staff and board as Alfred was advised by his Witan, but the CEO or President is ultimately responsible and accountable for the company's strategy and operations.
When will the people and groups who want to free Britain from the EU organize around one intelligent, courageous, incorruptible leader? Are their egos or their particular campaign ideas more important than freeing Britain? How can it be efficient for hundreds of eurosceptic groups and thousands of people to be running about without a clear, cohesive strategy and one leader?
9) Alfred gave authority and responsibility to others, and they could handle it. One of them, Earldormen Odda, defeated the Danes at Cynuit (Cannington).
10) Alfred was practical. He did not think God would save Wessex if Wessex didn't do what needed doing. After the peace he kept the fyrds at the ready (the farmer-warriors farmed and fought in shifts). He constructed a fleet of innovative ships (different in design from Frisian and Danish ships). He established a network of fortified towns - Chichester, Winchester, Exeter, Bath, Porchester, Southampton, Langport, Watchet, Cadbury, Cricklade, Oxford, Wallingford, and Wareham. He founded grammar schools. He codified the common law so his people would know what the law was, and based it on Anglo Saxon and Judaeo-Christian principles of fairness and equity.
11) Alfred turned his back on multiculturalism. He believed in Christianity as the sanest guide to prosperity and happiness. He had three centuries of proof. Four centuries earlier the Anglo Saxons had come to England, and plundered, raped and burned. Then, having converted to Christianity they settled down, farmed, created arts, and developed a common law to settle disputes peacefully.
Alfred’s final agreement with Guthrum and the Danes was not about hostages or land or borders or red lines. It was about a transformation of attitude. The Danes would have to adopt Christianity and with it the Ten Commandments.
In the case of the EU, the transformation of an undemocratic conglomerate is not possible. Consequently Britain could transform her relationship with the EU by leaving and establishing free and relaxed and sensible relationships with European countries, Commonwealth countries, the US, Africa and Asia.
12) Alfred believed that God had blessed him by giving him life and that he was responsible to a just God for his actions. He believed that God was his friend. Without his sense of purpose Alfred could not have endured the chronic pain of an undiagnosed condition – malaria? gastroenteritis? – and could not have triumphed in the direst straits over implacable enemies. A king whose kingdom had shrunk to a swamp in Somerset became King of all Wessex once again and the guardian and defender of his people’s peace.
What a great guy.