Leadership, Another View

“Leadership is the privilege to have the responsibility to direct the actions of others in carrying out the purposes of the organization, at varying levels of authority and with accountability for both successful and failed endeavors”.  What leader made this statement? It sounds modern and something right out of current leadership books. Actually, the statement is from Attila the Hun.

Attila the Hun was a barbaric tyrant, whose armies ruthlessly destroyed the beautiful countryside while on their way to plunder and pillage numerous cities and villages inhabited by the more civilized people of European nations. However, even the most dreadful of people, if they are the leader of a group, use certain leadership principles that can form an effective base on which to build other skills important to success.

It has been said that to lead, one must simply have followers. When Attila became Chieftain, he was faced with a number of disorganized tribes that he forged into one nation of Huns. This was not accomplished simply because he was the chief.  Attila’s leadership was inspiring, he was a great listener and communicator, and he had a vision. Leadership principles that are sound, reasonable, and proven will work for anyone who has the skill to use them properly.

Attila knew the leadership qualities that were necessary for the success of his organization. They included;

  • Loyalty
  • Courage
  • Desire
  • Decisiveness
  • Timing
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy
  • Credibility.

It is no coincidence or surprise that a leader like Attila would expect the same qualities in his time that are expected of a leader of a successful organization today. Even as King, Attila was forward thinking enough to realize that even his decisions would not be accepted by everyone. Leaders today should expect no less. However, like Attila, successful leaders press on with the self confidence that their plan will succeed. Self-confidence begins with a desire to lead, a want-to-be-in-charge attitude. For leaders to be successful this self-confidence must be evident to the organization around them.

As a leader, you must have a passion to succeed. This passion must be obvious (Lead by Example) to your subordinates and is the quality that effective leaders use to inspire employees to want to accomplish bigger and better things, to seek results that make the organization a success. Effective leaders exhibit by their actions the standards the people within the organization are expected to uphold. Leaders establish the morale, integrity, and sense of justice of their subordinate leaders by their own actions. Attila recognized the fact that he was not the only leader in his organization. However, he expected his subordinate leaders and the entire organization to perform at the highest level and to abide by the standards he set and exhibited.

The people of the organization are important to the success and longevity of the organization. Attila realized this early in his career and expected his subordinate leaders to hold the same belief. Attila realized that providing small tokens of appreciation would result in a more dedicated and committed army of followers.

And finally, Attila had a vision for his people. He was able to effectively communicate this vision to his organization by setting the example for expected standards, by his actions as a warrior, and by his ethical positions in regards to the importance of the tribe. Attila ensured everyone in his organization knew the history of the Huns, their survivability, their warrior skills, and the long line of ancestors. His vision included the past and built on that to create a vision of the future. With this vision, Attila was able to energize his people to accomplish great things.

Attila was able to accomplish many things during his tenure as leader of the Huns. He brought numerous separate tribes together and formed one nation. He ruled with an iron hand but was well known for his fairness. He involved his subordinates in creating the plans for the future. Attila possessed many of the qualities that effective leaders of today possess. These qualities are tools for any leader to use to keep their organization on the road to success.

If you have a formal book review group or policy, this one is a good source for leaders at any rank.

Remember, Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home

Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun Paperback

February 1, 1990

by Wess Roberts

ISBN: 0446391069

ISBN-13: 9780446391061


William Jolley has 37 years of experience in the fire service with 20 of those years in a management position. William was the Fire Chief of Haines City, Florida, a city of Approximately 20,000. Prior to that William was the Assistant Chief of Saint Petersburg, Florida, where he worked for 35 years.

Posted in Chief William Jolley, Leadership.