7th Century Leadership Lessons

By Bilal Hafeez

(2 min read)

It is tempting to think that leadership today is uniquely bad, but when you study history you find that nothing is unique, especially when it comes to human nature. Therefore, I love reading ancient accounts of good leadership, such as by Confucius or Cicero. They can provide us insights into how to be better leaders today. And I recently came across a 7th-century letter written by the head of an empire to his new governor of Egypt on how to lead. It was excellent. 

The empire, one of the fastest expanding ones in history, was the early Islamic one and covered much of the Middle East. The leader was Ali ibn Abi Talib – the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. His letter was an outline of good governance and touched on everything from fair taxation to how to pick a cabinet. But I’ve picked out some of the more general leadership ideas and I’ve rendered the language in a more contemporary tone. Here goes: 



Bilal Hafeez
 is the CEO and Editor of Macro Hive. He spent over twenty years doing research at big banks – JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, and Nomura, where he had various “Global Head” roles and did FX, rates and cross-markets research.


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