Leonidas was a better leader than Alexander the Great
I accept. I also accept any definition of efffective leadership that PRO wishes to contend, where I personally believe Alexander's persona defends well against any leadership model; greek hero, military, political, religious, moral, contemporary ideal, or otherwise.
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Thermopylae was a coalition, rather than the Spartans alone, as many believe. Leonidas was chosen as the coalition's leader not because of Sparta's military prowess, but rather because of his charisma and reputation among the ranks. Leonidas hand-selected his troops. He made his ranks of fathers only, so that each of his men would have an heir. Outnumbered 20-1 by the greatest army in the world, Leonidas prevailed in holding off this massive force for three days, long enough for the rest of Greece to rally their forces and evacuate their cities. This was not, however, a suicide mission, as many believe. The forces at Thermopylae were led believe that they would have reinforcements, though other city states failed to follow through on their promises. Leonidas continued to fight despite this. Leonidas also fought in the battles, unlike Alexander.
Actually, Alexander did participate in his battles and even led some pretty spectacular cavalry charges.
And if Leonidas deserves credit for delaying the greatest power of his day, then Alexander deserves credit for conquering it. And if you want to believe the ancient sources, then Alexander at the climactic Battle of Gaugamela was outnumbered 47,000 troops to 1,000,000. Though those numbers themselves are obviously an exaggeration, what isn't an exaggeration is that Alexander fought against some of the largest deployed army formations in human history (Persians, Indians, and Greeks), and inevitably, was nearly always outnumbered. But unlike all other great captains in history, including Caesar, Napoleon, Frederick, Hannibal, and Leondias, Alexander never lost a single battle. Despite being a REAL suicide mission, Alexander’s dreams of world conquest were only stopped when his men became too tired to continue on, which can hardly be noted then as a personal failure on Alexander's part.
When we talk about Alexander's success, we need to remember he was set up for it. He was the son of a king, and tutored by the greatest philosophers and strategists of the time. Leonidas worked his way up the ranks, becoming king with his ambition and charisma.
And though you state that his troops' fatigue was not his fault, in a way it was. Alexander pushed them past their limits. You also failed to include that the incident ended in a mutiny. He tried to get them to continue, and when they revolted, he gave in. Leonidas' soldiers followed him to death, while Alexander couldn't even get his to finish the campaign.
On top of that, Alexander faced another rebellion, which was handled even worse. When men were dissatisfied with the job Alexander was doing, he ordered their execution without any warning, trial or any other such opportunity. A good leader doesn't need to manipulate fear to keep men in line. Sources in comments
The ability to spur the minds and talents of people beyond their innate limitations has always been the hallmark of a great leader, where I strongly disagree that battle fatigue was a result of poor leadership. It may be said Alexander's ambitions bit off more than it could chew, but it can't be said that Alexander himself was not able maximize the skills and efforts of every unique soldier under his command, considering his army accomplished more and conquered more land than any other army in history (Mongols excepted).
If Alex is to be faulted at all, then it should be for attempting to achieve impossible goals with imperfect people. And I’d be weary to claim that Leonidas did not also lead through intimidation. Sparta’s adherence to strict discipline and honor during battle could be especially severe on anyone not up to snuff. Also to consider is Spartan treatment of the helots (who were at Thermopylae). Finally, Leonidas (like Alex) did inherit an army and did marry into royalty.
Strictly militarily speaking; Alexander succeeded at all forms of war, including siege and guerrilla. He conquered the greatest power, and never lost a battle. His army only tired after thirteen years of fighting, and only then was it a plea to return home, which is not the same as wanting to dispose their king. But even so, Alexander still has the record of being a uniter, which is shown most impressively by his policies of cultural fusion with Greek & Persian subjects.
In comparison, Leonidas has not nearly as many accomplishments; where Thermopylae ended in military defeat for the Greeks. Though Leonidas's sacrifice at Thermopylae was commendable, historians also need to remember the limitations of Leonidas's leadership in that battle. The last stand of the 300 was still made in conjunction with a simonataneous last stand at sea with the Athenian navy. And the ultimate reason perhaps why Greece still lost was mainly because Leonidas had failed to persuade Sparta to send all its army.
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