Spartacus - Change Agent

By Scott Franklin

In 73 BC, Spartacus, a Roman slave turned gladiator, turned leader of the Third Servile War, leads his group of fellow slaves in an uprising against the Roman Empire. History portrays Spartacus as an excellent tactician and leader who inspired upwards of 70,000 untrained slaves to follow his quest for freedom. The 1960 film adaptation featuring Kirk Douglas shows Spartacus as all of these plus something else – a brilliant agent of change.

One of the characteristics that makes great leaders great is their ability to successfully lead change. In fact, leadership and change are inextricably connected – i.e., you only need a leader if you are actually going somewhere. Leading change starts with a vision of a better future, however successfully leading change requires creating something greater; it requires creating a shared vision. Major changes are too big for any one person to accomplish.

In the film, Spartacus and his army are defeated by the Roman legion. The Roman commander informs the captives:

“Your lives are to be spared. Slaves you were and slaves you remain. The terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set aside on the single condition that you identify the slave called Spartacus.”

As Spartacus stands to identify himself, the man beside him rises and claims “I am Spartacus”. Others stand and claim “I am Spartacus” until the entire slave army is standing and proclaiming “I am Spartacus”. While Hollywood tends to take some liberties with history (don’t get me started on Braveheart. Seriously, don’t.), Tinseltown does know how to tell a great story – and the story here is to effect great change you must bring others into your vision. Paint a picture and help others paint themselves into it. Sell, tell and compel until the vision takes a life of its own and Spartacus the vision replaces Spartacus the person.


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