Messaging Leadership in Ancient Persia: The Case of Darius I


Communication is an important facet of leadership, and this study focuses on how leaders communicate their personal qualifications, accomplishments, and agendas. Specifically, this study addresses the importance of communication during periods of transition. In the life of a corporation, mergers and acquisitions (often referred to in abbreviated form as M&A) are critical transitional events that can impact profitability and spur anxiety among corporate stakeholders and, depending on the profile of the companies involved, the general public. Consequently, sophisticated companies increasingly regard a strong public relations campaign as a critical component of their M&A strategies.

In the general context of ancient history and specifically the history of ancient empires, a clear parallel exists to the corporate M&A from which valuable lessons on leadership may be gleaned. As with M&A and modern corporations, for ancient empires the transition of power from one ruler to another was a critical event which often tested the empire’s cohesion.

This case study illustrates the communication of leadership credentials during transitional periods by examining one such ancient Iranian ruler: the Persian king Darius I (also known as Darius the Great; lived 550–486 BCE, reigned 522–486 BCE). Darius was a member of the Achaemenid dynasty who seized the throne after a period of dynastic crisis precipitated by the death of his predecessor and purported relative, Cambyses II. He also left behind the most extensive epigraphic corpus of any Achaemenid king. The aim of the case is to encourage readers to consider how a good leader may present his or her personal qualifications and agenda during periods of transition.

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