7 Leadership Lessons from the Life of Alfred the Great

Okay So I read this amazing book about the life of Alfred the Great this weekend an wrote a short review that you can find here.  Then it came time for me to find a spot on my shelf and I started trying to figure out which section of my shelves it needed to be stored under and three categories came to mind.  Obviously historical biography because that is the genera in which it is written, but Alfred also demonstrated unwavering Christian Character and sought to evangelize viking leaders who were tearing into his territory and then there are the amazing leadership principles I gleaned from reading the book.  In the end I put it in the leadership category due to the amazing leadership characteristics that I saw displayed in Alfred throughout the book.

7 Leadership Lessons from the Life of Alfred the Great


1. Never give up on what really matters.

Even when he was betrayed by some of his countrymen and forced to flee to the swamp with his family, Alfred sought out ways to demonstrate that he was still the king and would defend his homeland.  He never completely abandoned hope, gave up, or ran away.  He stood his ground despite dismal circumstances.  He rallied troops to come to his aid and eventually fought back the viking hoards and won victory. Yet even in fighting back the vikings, he demonstrated a noble and Christian character in dealing mercifully with a savage enemy.

2. Don’t Ask People to do What you are Not Willing to do.

Alfred lead his troops to battle time and time again.  This was normal practice for an Anglo-Saxon king.  He demonstrated valor in the midst of battle.  He asked his men only to go so far as he was willing to go himself.  This was true both on and off the battle field.  Even in the sweeping reforms he would make concerning literacy in his nation, he first modeled by taking it upon himself to learn Latin as an Adult.  Furthermore when it came time for his scholars to translate Latin works into Anglo-Saxon, Alfred was the final translator.

3. Learn from your Mistakes.

Alfred made a few mistakes early on.  One was not pursuing the vikings once his men had them on the run.  The vikings soon learned that they were not being pursued, regrouped, came back and attacked Alfred’s celebrating troops and won the victory.  Never again did Alfred allow his troops to celebrate before they had definitively routed the enemy troops.

4. Raise the Level of Leadership around You.

One of the main concerns for Alfred was the enforcing of the law.  He was discouraged to know that many of the men in positions of power under him were illiterate and unable to read the laws of the land.  Alfred insisted that every leader learn to read.  Those who learned well were honored and given gifts.  Those who were not able to learn surrendered their posts.  Alfred also revised the laws and did his best to ensure justice was done.  He placed a great deal of importance on keeping an oath.

5. Pass on Leadership  Lessons to the Next Generation.

Alfred’s sweeping reforms also provided that children would learn to read.  He also provided ample opportunities for his sons and daughter to see his leadership in action.  His son assumed the throne and carry his father’s initiatives forward.  Alfred’s grandson would eventually route the vikings completely and send them all home saving his motherland from their onslaught.  Alfred’s daughter would outlive her husband and benefit the people of her subkingdom by leading them out to battle against the Danes.

6. Seek Expert Help on New Projects, (even if it means going outside the organization).

Alfred sought the help of naval experts outside of his Anglo-Saxon kingdom to build a navy that would eventually patrol his shoreline.  He also sought scholars from beyond the border of his kingdom when he set his heart to learn Latin and to prepare Latin works to be translated into the Anglo-Saxon tongue.  Alfred got the help he needed from the experts rather than trying to start something from the ground up.

7. Meet Challenging Goals with innovation and Invention.

Alfred created a system that allowed a standing army to be ready year-round.  He developed fortified cities with in a days travel of one another.  He developed larger boats for his navy to combat the viking forces before they ever landed on Anglo-Saxon soil.  When he set his heart to trying to raise the piety of the people in his kingdom he realized that Latin would be forgotten within a generation and set out to translate the Latin works into English.

Alfred the great was truly an amazing man and an amazing leader.  I encourage you to get the book.  You can read my brief review here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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