Power-hungry despot. Dictator for life. Vain ladies' man. Murdered by his peers for aspiring to be king. That was Julius Caesar, at least according to his critics and modern interpreters. But countless portrayals of the most famous Roman - in histories, novels, plays and films - omit what were quite likely his greatest features: his multifaceted genius, unparalleled leadership skill, and, remarkable for the times in which he lived, his humanity. Those skills - and their relevance for leadership today - have gone mostly unnoticed.

So this week on MindMatters we discuss The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar with author Phillip Barlag. This examination of Caesar's accomplishments not only brings a fresh perspective on who Caesar was, but also hones in on the qualities that made him an exemplary leader of ancient Rome and what lessons we can draw from the accounts of his life and character. What emerges is an alternative reading of Caesar, not as a wholly self-serving tyrant, but a politically skilled reformer, man of the people, and all around exceptional human being.

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Here is the transcript:

Harrison: Welcome back to Mind Matters everyone, I'm Harrison Koehli, joined by my co-hosts, Elan Martin and Adam Daniels. Today we are pleased to have Phillip Barlag with us. Let me ask really quickly, did I pronounce your last name right?

Phillip: You did. It's a surprisingly difficult, tricky six letters but you nailed it.

Harrison: Okay good. Phillip is the author of this book, The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar: Modern Lessons from the Man Who Built an Empire. This was published back in 2016. It's not your only book, Phillip. You've got a new one coming out in a month, I believe called Evil Roman Emperors. I can't remember the subtitle off the top of my head. Maybe we can get into that one a bit later on.

Phillip: Sure.

Harrison: But to start out, this is an interesting book. It's not your typical Caesar book. Most books written about Caesar or the time period, the history of Rome are written either by historians or classicists or something of that sort. But you've got an interesting background. Could you just tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and then we can go from there because I want to hear a bit about you.

Phillip: Sure. Thank you. And thank you all for the opportunity to speak to you. I always find myself qualifying that I come to such conversations with no manner of expertise and that applies both in terms of writing as well as what I do professionally, which is essentially facilitating knowledge exchange between corporate executives so that they can learn from and share with one another, the premise being that the best executives in the world have to be open-minded and admit they don't already have all the answers and the best people to provide ideas and answers are other people that sit in a similar chair.

So I work for an organization that facilitates knowledge and ideas so I'm tremendously privileged to sit in the room and listen to some of the top business conversations in the world and it's extraordinary for me to be able to do so. I like to joke - although it's actually not really a joke, it is a truth, so you call it self-deprecation with a strong element of truth - that I'm the one person that doesn't belong in every room that I'm in. So I get a really tremendous opportunity to meet and listen to some remarkable business leaders.

That's what I do professionally. Personally I always have had a strong penchant for history. I've enjoyed it personally. I didn't know how to access it terribly much until I got married, started reading a little bit more for pleasure, found that I kept coming back to the same topics over and over. So I am profoundly amateur. I'm not a corporate executive although I work with them and I'm not a historian although I write about it. So I try to bring an amateur eye and lens to professional things and the writing is no different. I don't know that I'm necessarily qualified to have an opinion on these things other than more an aggregator of the opinions of people who do matter, if that makes sense.

Adam: That pretty much leads into two of the questions that I had. Number one was why Caesar and why Rome as being of particular interest to you. That was the first one. The second one, which is more interesting to me, was at what point did you realize that you could glean a lot from Caesar's life in terms of leadership? Was it a particular moment after having read a couple of books about him or did you already have an idea going into it? What was the story about that because I think that would be interesting.

Phillip: They're all great questions and there's a lot to unpack so if I start to ramble, I have no hesitancy with you guys coming on and saying, "Buddy get back on track." {laughter} Why Caesar? Why Rome: If I could answer them in inverse order. Have you all been to Rome before?

Harrison: Never.

Adam: No.

Elan: I have.

Phillip: There is something incredible about that city and I once described that even the air has a bit of a different taste to it which sounds like a strange thing but if you go and absorb the multi-sensory experience, it's like no other city in the world. But the first time I went was just after my wife and I were married. We were dead broke - our next anniversary would be our 20th - dead broke, and we got this super saver discount on US Airways for a round trip ticket for $250 and we swallowed hard, put every penny we had in and decided to go. We'd been married for just a couple of months so it turned out to be our honeymoon. Incidentally I remember the hostel that we stayed in had its own bathroom which was a selling feature, but they didn't say that all the apparatuses of the bathroom in one thing about the size of a phone booth so you could, if you really wanted to, sit on the toilet, brush your teeth and take a shower at the same time. {laughter} That's how poor we were when we went. Everything got wet no matter what. {laughter}

We took a train. You land at DaVinci airport and you take a train to Termini station and along the way you pass through a gap that's been opened up in the city walls that ring the city which are known as the walls of Aurelian. When you cut through a cross-section of the wall, the genius of the Romans hits you so hard because you know this is ancient. You know this is antiquity. You're looking at something that was engineered nearly 2,000 years ago and it's astonishing.

By the way, most of those walls are still intact. They've been enhanced over the millennia but I remember asking someone, "Who built those and what are they?" And someone said, "Those are the walls of Aurelian." And I said, "Who the hell's Aurelian?" I'd heard of Marcus Aurelius. Was that the same guy? Not knowing the answer to simple questions is an invitation to learn more.

So by going there, by experiencing the city, by asking a couple of basic questions, it was the first pull of a thread of interest that I have yet to find the end of. That was going on nearly 20 years ago and Rome, by being there, by experiencing it and seeing it, gave me permission to start reading more, by learning more, etc. and that to me, has led me to an endlessly fascinating civilization and culture.

So Rome's history is described as well documented with no absolute certainties. I was thinking about this. There are very few things about Caesar that we know definitively. Very few. A lot we have from near contemporaneous sources, very little that's confirmed, absolute, everyone agrees, objective truth. So much of his life, like so much of Rome's history - and it starts to answer the second part of that question - is the pursuit of your version of what you perceive to be the truth. As I got to know Caesar - and by the way, this book was written five years ago and I've continued to get a new sense and my view on him has changed a little bit.

So this is a point in time of an evolutionary process. I find him to be THE most interesting, enigmatic, open to subjective interpretation person you could possibly hope to have. I actually don't even have one solid version of who he is. When I read history - and this will conclude the point on why Caesar/why Rome before getting into what you're going to have to remind me was the second half of the question...

Adam: Fair enough.

Phillip: ultimate goal is to feel like if I were to sit down with that person and we were able to converse in the language where we could understand each other with zero margin for error, would they feel comfortable to me. I feel like I have a sense that if we were going to go out and we were going to grab an espresso or a gelato - not to overindulge in Romans' favorite indulgences - but that he and I would be able to have a conversation where his character would feel comfortable with me. That's my burden of proof, that I've done enough research to get to know who someone is historically. I love him, he's fascinating. He's deeply flawed. He's brilliant. No matter what you think about him, he's worth studying and that's kind of where I went. So hopefully that helps with part one. Can you remind me of the second part?

Adam: Yeah. Just to say that that really brought home exactly what I was hoping to get at as far as what led you on your journey into who he was and everything. So thank you for that. That was awesome. The second part was, was there a defining moment where it hit you that he was a great leader and there was much to learn about him or was it just a process? What was it?

Phillip: Right. It is a terrific question. About eight years or so ago I did a nights and weekends MBA and incidentally I'm currently in a nights and weekends masters history program so I've been clocking along in the slowest pace of academic progress that you could hope to imagine. I remember the course load being somewhat intense and saving for myself a book that I had personal interest in but I didn't feel like I could give it its attention until I was done. So my graduation present to myself was to read a book called Caesar, Life of a Colossus by a historian named Adrian Goldsworthy. It's a great, great book and I've come to understand that there are different ways of telling history and he has a unique way of doing it. He strips out all the florid 'what we don't know' embellishments but it still might be cool', some of the salacious details and stays grounded a bit more in facts than others.

So then I just got fascinated with him in particular and also the biography of him, the study of him, the leadership of him. Put that on one side and on the other, the first time I heard this anecdote with which I actually open the book which is the one word that dismantled the uprising of his troops, the mutiny. Sorry. There's a big mutiny. He says that one word. The mutiny shatters. I'd come across that anecdote, not just in Goldworthy. I don't remember if he specifically talks about it, but in some of the things that are lauded as these great biographies and it's such an incredible moment and the arc of his life is so big, the stories are so outsized, his influence on history, there's so much ground to cover, that there are a lot of little moments where he demonstrates his genius, that get run completely over in the arc of the broader historical narrative.

So what started my 'let's study this guy as a leader' was 'I need to know more about that one word, that one incident, that one example' and then I found out when you try to get past trying to tell the whole story and you pick specific incidents, there's universes inside these moments that also warrant exploration and in coming into those moments that's where I felt like this is someone that can be held up as having written a version of how to be a great leader that warrants study.

Elan: So Phillip, I think one of the things that struck me so strongly about your book, in contrast to so much other material about Caesar that isn't just of a dry historical nature, is that you do take some position on the man, and that is that he was a very constructive or had a lot of very constructive qualities about him that were traits that could be looked to and emulated in an individual who was seeking to do better at leading people and organizations. I would just say that it's a somewhat unique position to take on the guy considering, at least on a very superficial level, most people have this idea of Caesar as this dictator, as someone who was a very successful general who had a lot of triumphs.

But certainly this dimension of being a leader for the people, of genuinely trying to make conditions better for the average citizen of Rome at the time and really honing in on that and honing in on all of the qualities and values he must have held in order to be so successful, not just as a general but as a politician.

So I thought it was a somewhat unique take on the man and served to dispel some of the more conventional, widely held beliefs or views of him and in that sense is quite valuable to individuals who want to know a little bit in what is a pretty short volume. You've distilled quite a lot into it.

But what I wanted to ask you, or maybe you can just comment on this a bit, you discuss his very high ability to communicate with his soldiers, with other politicians and with the public at large. This was, you write, what made Caesar very successful in consolidating his power base and in getting people aligned with the policies that he wanted to implement. So I wonder if you might speak a bit about his communication skills.

Phillip: Yes, thank you. Your comments about taking a position on him and who he was and his genuine care kind of gets to why he communicated the way he did, which was a hyper focus on knowing who his audience was.

I'm not a Roman historian. I'm an amateur who loves Roman history and it's an important distinction because someone who is a more professional listener or viewer to this conversation could rightly take exception to some of the things I think I've learned that may or may not be accurate. But it's important to understand the structure of Roman society to understand the character of Caesar and why his communications were so important.

Roman class structure was highly segmented based on rank and the highest order rank - again, there was no empire yet so there were no emperors yet. Some people claim Caesar is the first emperor, some people claim his successor is the first emperor. But either way, he grew up in a world where power was intended to be distributed but really was held in a small group of people. It was very much an oligarchic society and the highest pecking order in the society was the patricians and the patricians' rank were the people who could claim their ancestry to the semi-mythical founding of Rome under the probably entirely mythic Romulus. So if you were there at the beginning, then you have a right to be at the highest order of the social order.

Now Caesar's family, despite its impeccable credentials - by the way he also claimed descent from the goddess Venus - so he considered himself semi-divine which would not have been weird in that time though it might seem it now. They had fallen on hard times financially and Caesar grew up in what we would euphemistically call the slums, just outside the main city and every day he would walk through the slums and he would be among the people and he had a unique lens on high status but low economic means in a way that created a bond between him and the common people, or an affinity from him toward them that was probably not unprecedented but definitely unique among the patrician order.

So he understood holistically what Rome was across the socioeconomic spectrum, across the social spectrum, more than his predecessors. So what he could do uniquely in his communications was segment them to speak to the various audiences because he understood this is what the rank and file worker wants. This is what the rank and file worker thinks. This is what the patrician wants. This is what the patrician thinks. This is the aspirant. This is what they want. This is how I can connect with them. He could orient his messages specific to his audiences in a way that was wholly unique.

And yes, he was a voluminous corresponder. It's said that he could stand in his command tent and dictate to four different secretaries at a time. His commentaries on his campaigns are considered masterpieces of Latin prose. It was required that a field general would send reports back to Rome. The fact that he did that was not unique but that he oriented the message toward the people who would receive him and give him political support was. Most people wrote for the highest order of the social society. He wrote for everyone because he understood that when he came back to Rome those are the people whose support he would need to continue to draw from.

So not only was he a prolific communicator, he also used what he understood of the totality of society to target his message to make sense for the audience for whom it was intended. In other words, everyone felt he was talking to them. His soldiers felt like he was talking to them. The Senate felt like he was talking to them. The patricians felt like he was talking to them. The plebians, the rank and file Romans felt like he was talking to them, or at least a big chunk of them would. That's what made him such an effective leader. He could easily flow between all of these different segments of society and feel affinity for them and have it returned.

Harrison: Well that's what I think you are uniquely predisposed to bring to a conversation like this. You categorized yourself as not an expert in either world. You exist in places where you might not belong by the norms of that institution, right?

Phillip: Right.

Harrison: But I think in this case it is actually an advantage because in your business world, in your profession, you deal with leaders, right? You've been in conversations. You've been able to see what works, see maybe what doesn't work and then you're able to take that skill set and apply it to this different field, to Rome, to look at accounts of an individual, of a person who happens to be perhaps one of the most famous and influential people in world history.

So then you have a unique approach, a unique way of looking at things that I think allows you to see things that others can't see. Other people would read that story about the mutiny and just gloss over it as an interesting point. Like you say, it crops up here and there but that was the one that grabbed you and that was significant for you. That's what I found about a lot of the anecdotes, the little stories that you include in this book. They're not the biggest events in Caesar's life. They're oftentimes something very small and even insignificant from maybe a historical perspective.

The way I see it, I think that that is an advantage for you that historians don't necessarily have. A historian oftentimes won't have that experience and is looking at history through a particular lens. I can't remember if it was when we were recording or beforehand when you were talking about history and...

Phillip: It's interesting now to contrast my amateur status with the early stages of trying to learn the professional side of being a historian which is getting a degree in that and may or may not roll through and go in the academic route from here on out. The overall tone of the professional trait of historians that I'm in the earliest possible phases of learning is the whole, is 'yeah, but how do you know for sure?' If I could sum up a year-and-a-half of history in grad school, it's 'Yeah, but how do you know for sure?''

So there is this measured skepticism and it's not to suggest that we shouldn't be deeply skeptical of anything that we read or write or whatever, but I think that there is an inherent - and I don't mean this in the political sense, I mean this in terms of a peer reviewer - if the average person has a devil and an angel on their shoulder, I think one of those characters is probably defined by the peer reviewer, someone who's watching to say, "Yeah but how do you know for sure?" as they should and provide the right level of academic rigor inside history writing, is part of being an actual historian.

For me as an amateur, I am liberated from that as part of my subconscious as I write.

Harrison: Yeah.

Phillip: That does give me the opportunity to take the outsider's point of view and say, "Yeah, but what if this is the story that we can learn from it and this is the example that we should know," in a way that perhaps is a luxury or a self-indulgence that I take advantage of because of my amateur status. It can be quite freeing to not be an expert, right?

Harrison: Yeah.

Phillip: And if someone disagrees with me or a viewer watches this or listens to this and says, "You're out of your mind because that didn't happen," I can say, "I didn't know any better! I'm just an amateur!" {laughter} It's a great 'cover your know what' default to go to.

Harrison: That thing about historians, that tendency and high level skepticism about events, how DO you know, how can you prove that that actually happened, works both ways. There are numerous perspectives on Caesar but I would say that the main one is, like you said at the very beginning of the book, you pretty much summed it up and I think maybe it was Elan that said it, that you could pretty much sum it up as "Caesar was pretty much a brutal dictator, a war lord and he was basically so bad that the good, decent citizens of Rome had to band together to assassinate him." That's why that has carried on in culture, in American culture even. The patricians are held up as the people that saved Rome or that attempted to save Rome.

When you actually read it, you can see where that comes from. You can see how that can be read into it. But from my perspective, you can apply that historical skepticism to it and look at it like this: hold on a second. We're actually looking at history through the eyes of the patricians and what they were saying about themselves. A lot of the history that was written about Caesar isn't necessarily contemporary. You have some contemporaries. You have Sallust and you have Cicero and Caesar himself.

So you've got Caesar's what you could call self-propaganda because it was propaganda even if that was the purpose of it, right?

Phillip: Right.

Harrison: Then you've got Cicero, but when you look at Cicero, Cicero is no better and in fact is probably worse. When you look at Cicero's life and the things he reveals about himself in his letters, he's not a very likable guy. He's one of those guys that you could probably have coffee with and leave happy that you're leaving the conversation with him. All of the histories about Caesar's life are actually written decades, centuries later from the perspective largely of that patrician mindset.

So if you keep that in mind and look at the history of Caesar, that's why I think that your approach is pretty good and it's pretty much in line with the famous History of Rome by Theodor Mommsen, the famous German, right?

Phillip: Yeah.

Harrison: I'll just say I agree with Mommsen. That's just my bias. I think that Mommsen and your book is actually a more accurate view of what the character of Caesar was probably like. Of course that's going to be a judgment that every person is going to have to make because you can't know with 100% certainty. But when you read through all of these events, all of the little ones, little things come up. The one that comes up for me is probably Caesar's clemency.

Phillip: Yeah.

Harrison: I think you've got some interesting things to say about it in the book but maybe you could talk about some more of the things that made Caesar different for his time that really should make you scratch your head when you find out about them.

Phillip: Thank you. It's funny. You frame him out in the popular conception of him as a general and a dictator for life. But people don't understand, or let me say it this way, what I didn't understand until I began really getting deep into Roman history - not even that deep - is that the term dictator was actually a formal office that was conveyed upon people and there were all sorts of examples of people having served as dictator. In Roman mythology the most important is Cincinnatus who was the appointed dictator. He solved the imminent crisis that threatened the republic. He gave power back to the Senate. So it was returning the military power to the civilian institutions, which is why so many people called George Washington the American Cincinnatus and why the fraternal order of the descendants of the officers that served under him are called the Society of the Cincinnatus. He's lauded as this hero.

Caesar's great misfortune in being murdered while holding that office was that that was the last title he had before he was killed. He was appointed dictator for life because the Senate was incredibly sycophantic and then they resented him for having had access to the power unfettered and saw him as a great threat to the republic. Of course it's always important to qualify; republicanism means something very different 2000 years ago in Rome than it means now so we're referring to it in the ancient context of the governing structure of Rome.

He was an autocrat and he WAS a dictator in some of the less desirable ways in which you think about it. But he also DID care about the population, the average Roman and he really sought to convey improvement in the quality of the average life and by the way, not just Rome but the affiliated Latin communities on the periphery of Rome, the affiliated Italic communities on the periphery of Alesia.

So he was an expansive thinker at a time when it wasn't and the reason to bring this up as a tortured way of answering the question is that it is always so important to debate with yourself whether you should judge someone based on the standards of where they were and who they were versus what we know now. Caesar did things that were absolutely atrocious and it's not to forgive them. Anyone has to be the judge of whether or not you view him through a lens of modern values or ancient values. Was he radically awful for a modern time? Was he radically forgiving in the present? Each person has to choose that for themselves and I think that's where you see a lot of debates in contemporary society when we look back on historical figures; do we judge them by what we value now or how the values were organized then.

So the clemency is a really interesting example. It's complicated. It's multifaceted. He offered pardon. If someone betrayed him or fought against him, his default was forgiveness. You're Caesar. I'm an opponent. I join the wrong side or what proves to be the losing side in a civil war. You give me forgiveness. It's magnanimous but it's also self-serving. It's by forgiving someone Caesar was also claiming the authority to forgive someone in the first place and that's one of the titles of one of the chapters, Co-opt the Power of Others. It WAS gracious because by the standards of the day, he had every right - I shouldn't say right, but the social expectation was that he would kill his enemies. You would suffer. You would be banished. Your properties would be stolen, whatever. Your descendants cannot hold office. Your name is to be eradicated from the memory.

So by forgiving people he went way against what was the normative behaviour for his time but it also served selfish motives and for his ability to lead Rome, if you think about it as a corporation, the more people that are indebted to him, the more it smooths his ability to move forward with his agenda and his co-option of the power of others through the mechanism of forgiveness, implicitly claimed the moral authority to be granting the forgiveness in the first place.

So it's important with Caesar in all the different ways that you talk about him to remember that he was a guy that lived in a society that had different values, that had different behavioral patterns and part of what made him so revolutionary was that he defied those values in that time and you have to decide for yourself, whoever you are, whether to judge him by the normative behavior of today as part of your assessment of his character.

Personally I think it's a little bit unfair to say 2,000 years ago you should have known what we value now. But again, that's up to each person to figure out for themselves.

My favorite little anecdote in answer to your question, what are a couple of other things that really stood out as those little moments, if I'm remembering correctly it's referenced in Suetonius's biography of Caesar in the epic Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Earlier in his political career - and please understand the Romans drew no distinction between general and politician. You were a leader or you weren't and Caesar was and one of the things that leaders were expected to do was go out and command armies. There was no professional military leadership class in quite the same way that we would think of it in contemporary society.

So early in his career he's in the rank of I believe, Praetor, which is sub-consul which at the time was the highest elected office and he had been suspended from office for one reason or another and the people rose up because they were so mad that their champion had been denied power and they were rioting and they came to his home and they're banging on his door saying, "Just tell us who and the mob will rise up for you and we'll drive off your enemies and we will put you in power."

Caesar faced the choice. Do I take advantage of this and achieve short-term success but prove all of my enemies right, that I'm this autocrat, thirsty for power, etc., or do I forgo this opportunity and defy expectations? A lot of Caesar's career decisions come down to the short-term gain versus long-term investment and he generally tended to opt towards the more cautious approach. Believe it or not, he was a pretty cautious guy. He made moves like this and in this particular case he said, "Thank you for your support. Go home." And the effect was that his opponents were shamed because he proved them wrong and he came back to power in office with more power than he had had previously.

So he was really, really interesting for his ability to figure out the right way to defy the normative behavior at the right time to always tend to bet on his long-term success at the expense of his short-term gain. I think that's a really useful lesson for any society regardless of what the normative behavior is at that time.

Harrison: One thing that just came to mind when you were giving that anecdote was another one. You talk about this one in one of the first chapters in the book. It's in one of the wars. I think he's off in Gaul somewhere and the soldiers don't want to attack for some reason. I can't remember the details. Maybe they're outnumbered, but he's got an army that doesn't want to do anything. What does he do? He charges out alone. I guess in any other context, to borrow some phrases, you can imagine a situation where there's a mamby-pamby upper class guy pretending to be a general. He's just in it for himself and we're the soldiers. We're the guys that are getting killed on the fields for these guys, right?

But that wasn't entirely true even in Rome at the time because even back then, like you said, you had to be a general. You had to establish yourself and prove yourself somehow. You had to have some skin in the game but even compared to other Roman generals there was something about Caesar's military leadership that was special too. Not only did he pretty much always win, often through what seems like sheer luck but also skill, I think this one stood out to you as well where Caesar runs out on his own into battle and that leaves his soldiers with a choice. Maybe describe the story and how you see it, how you interpret it.

Phillip: Not to get too bogged down into who they were fighting and why, Caesar has been marching his troops all over what we would today call Europe fighting this battle and that and they're tired and grumpy and it's hot, give the litany of complaints. He knows "I need one more big charge and the soldiers don't want to take it" so instead of commanding someone - you know the term 'decimate a population'? The term decimation draws from the Roman military ranks where people would draw lots on the command of their officer and the one who drew the short straw in a group of 10 would have to be beaten to death by the nine other people as a punishment? So that is something that Roman commanders had done. If you refuse to obey, I'm going to decimate and they would do it.

So instead of choosing the whole 'I'm going to slam my fist on the table' autocratic demand, 'your life is in my hands' route, which again, there was a pattern of that as normative behavior in the Roman military, he chose instead to use guilt and shame to compel people by putting his own life on the line.

So they're standing at the bottom of the hill, classic military. The people at the top of the hill have a pretty strong advantage over the people at the bottom. It's hot. They've been in the sun all day and not only does Caesar charge the hill alone but he rips off his helmet before doing so - or at least it's portrayed in a couple of sources that give origin to the story. Again, there's always going to be some historians that say, "That's bull. That never happened." But just go with it because the example itself is useful. I do believe that this is perfectly in line with his character by the way.

So he ripped off his helmet and made a grand show of making sure everyone knew who he was. By the way, the Roman generals were entitled to wear certain colors and regalia so that his opponents would know who he was. So not only did he identify himself to his own troops but also to his enemies and he charged the hill alone. Caesar truly was the champion of the common soldier. Highly unique in Roman history. There are other people who were great populists. His great uncle Marius is one of them. But for his time, the average Roman soldier did not feel that a general felt their pain quite the same way that he would have.

So not only are they shamed into action, but they also know if they lose him they've lost their champion and the next guy that comes in might decimate them. What's always so interesting about Caesar is that there was always a lot of layers to the motivation that he put forward. I mentioned that the forgiveness is both magnanimous and self-serving. This is also courageous leadership by example but also guilt and shame. These neat, contradictory elements so often find combination in him and him charging up the hill, shaming his troops into action - who, by the way, let go of their own anxiety, charged up the hill, overtook him, forced him to the back lines to safety, slaughtered the enemy and won the day.

You find these unique contradictions that should be oppositional forces, in combination within Caesar, within his leadership capabilities as part of what made him so extraordinary because he could just find different ways to connect with different people through the same actions in a way that I think is truly historically unique.

Elan: Well one of the ways that you put this into a framework Phillip is to make the distinction between power and force. It's very interesting to think of leadership as one leader threatening or coercing and being a jerk to his underlings and another wanting to instill and inspire an authentic choice among the people that are supporting him. It's very interesting. You discuss forgiveness as having this dual purpose and it's empowering in one sense because he is putting himself above, as in having the power to forgive, but there was also a kind of generosity of spirit that seems to be evident in Caesar.

I'm thinking in particular about the number of times that Cicero would stab him in the back and commit all of these political maneuvers that were so damaging to Caesar's agenda and to Caesar personally and Caesar would continue to make overtures at friendship, at political alignment. Something I wanted to say about that is I think that that's what you perceive. Obviously you perceive it. You wrote about it in strong terms, but there is that dimension to who Caesar was that you underscore for the reader as one of the things that had made him a great individual.

So I was hoping you'd talk a little bit more along the lines of clemency and forgiveness, his personality, because you describe him as a polymath. He was talking to everybody all of the time. He was creating all of these kinds of connections with individuals that had inspired the public to give Caesar their vote, essentially.

Phillip: Right. The person who's probably the most surprised over Caesar's assassination was likely Caesar because highly among the assassins were many people that he had at least at one point offered clemency to, including the most famous which is Brutus. He both was almost naïve in his faith in people to follow his agenda and cynical in his ability to create conditions in which they had no other choice.

Let's give an example of what would require clemency from Caesar. By the way, you talk about Cicero, he was remarkably tolerant of critical speech from other people, remarkably. Again, for the normative behaviour of his time, remarkably tolerant of criticism and willing to engage in debate and discussion with anyone. There's a great anecdote that when he's in the civil war he's repeatedly asking Pompey, "Can we just sit down and talk? Can we just sit down and talk? Can we just sit down and talk? Can we resolve this peacefully? Let's come to the table. Let's talk." And Pompey is alleged to have refused because he understood that he could not stand up to Caesar's charm and that he didn't sit down with Caesar because he knew he'd be won over.

So not only was he somewhat skewed towards graciousness in terms of his treatment with other people or forgiving them their motives that might be against his alignment, he was also pathologically charming. He could win over anyone so sometimes in the case of Pompey - which again, may or may not have happened - Pompey refused to put himself in a position so that he couldn't be charmed because he wanted to stick to his obstinacy.

With his policy of clemency - I said let's give an example - so Caesar and Pompey are representing the two factions. Caesar has crossed the Rubicon in the literal sense, which by the way in a fun like 'nobody knows for sure' way, no one knows where the Rubicon river actually is or was so anyone who claims that they've definitely said, "This is the spot where Caesar crossed" is full of it, to prove that some things are ultimately unknowable.

Caesar has crossed the Rubicon, he has invaded Italy. There now you have these two oppositional forces, Pompey representing the establishment which is ironic itself because Pompey arose as a populist and a great partner of Caesar's and Caesar's the populist every man and that's a way too simple reduction. In reality it's mostly about their egos but they each have their factions to back them.

So someone who was a senator among the patrician class or not is going to have to choose which side of this fight they're going to be on. Most of the senatorial class threw their lot in with Pompey, including Cicero although Cicero equivocated more than any person that you can imagine. He was just back and forth, back and forth. Cicero is himself a really fascinating guy as we've all alluded to.

So some senator chooses Pompey and they throw in their lot. They take up arms. They raise money. They raise troops. They sail ships around. They get involved in the various tensions of the civil war and they lose and they're captured and they come before Caesar and he puts his hand on their shoulder. Again, I'm being visual. I have no idea if that's actually what happened and says, "All is forgiven". So this person might come before Caesar and expect to have the order given that their head be severed from their neck. By the way the execution of a Roman citizen was beheading so if you start to get into biblical history of who was beheaded versus who was crucified it's also often who was a Roman citizen versus who was not. That's just a useless little piece of information.

Instead of being executed for their crime of having fought against Caesar they would be forgiven. Generally his policy was "I'll forgive you once and if you take up arms against me a second time, that's when I will default to the normative behaviour." So it's not to say that he would never have done that. Think about the consequences of the second time. You've been caught once, for lack of a better term, caught, are you going to risk it again? Probably not.

So Caesar's ability to block off other people's access to power was enlarged. He could position himself as being magnanimous so that's where we talk about different contradictory motives existing within the same action. But it's a complex thing. To be able to say, "I forgive you" is very powerful and most of the people that were forgiven spent the rest of their lives and careers being at least not in opposition to but generally supportive of Caesar.

If you'll allow me to answer a question that hasn't been asked yet but is related, it's something that I feel very strongly about. Caesar is most famous for having been murdered, having been assassinated, "Beware the Ides of March". For a political leader to be assassinated in the ancient world generally comes with this stink, "They must have been a failure". He was an autocrat, he was a dictator, people rose up and they killed him because he deserved it and he was not successful and if he had been successful then no one would have wanted to kill him.

Caesar came from a long line of populist reformers, all of whom were murdered. They all used various means to try to achieve their goals. Saturninus, Marcus Livius Drusus. The Gracchi brothers. They all met very violent deaths as did Caesar. The difference is that Caesar got his agenda to stick for two decades before he got killed as opposed to being killed in the moment of reform and a lot of what he ended up doing survived him by hundreds if not thousands of years and along the way he also gave us a template that we can learn from.

So lest anyone think that he was a failure because he was assassinated, my earnest plea, again as an amateur, is to disavow people of that notion. It's to remember what he achieved was staggering even at the expense of putting himself in the position of being killed by people he considered friends and family. So there you go. Rant over. {laughter}

Harrison: No, thank you.

Phillip: I'm back on track.

Harrison: Hold on one second, your mic isn't working Elan.

Adam: Well I'll just jump in for a second here. That really gives you a sense of all of these different little things about Caesar and his clemency and his ability to create new avenues or ways of behaving that up until that point didn't exist. That's a very creative thinker, as one aspect of it. But then it's also his ability to balance out not just, like you were saying before, the short term goals versus the long term investment, or short term gain versus long term investment and that seems to be somebody who has struggled within themselves to really define for themselves what they actually want. Do they want the short term gain? Are they that short-sighted? Or is there something about them that is deeper than that, that has this bigger aim or this bigger image or world that they're wanting to create that really comes through in what you've talked about here and in your book as well? It's the extent to which not only that Caesar understood people, everyone, high and low, far and wide, but also mastery over himself.

I was wondering if you might want to speak about that as well in terms of his self-mastery and also his understanding.

Phillip: In contemporary politics one of the quickest ways to marginalize someone is to label them a narcissist, right? Don't get me wrong, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum at least here in the US there's plenty of narcissists in politics. {laughter}

Harrison: Yeah.

Phillip: Sometimes that label is appropriately applied. You can ask the question, "Was Caesar a narcissist? Was he really truly about himself and was all of this just a play for him to have access to power?" That is one of the questions that I would consider to be unanswerable. But what I would say is that Caesar understood that there was enormous power, massive power to be gained in defying the expectations that people have of you and that if you want to progress then you need to stand out and if you need to stand out you need to be different than what people think you're going to be when you have the opportunity to demonstrate it.

When Caesar had come back from various campaigns - and I'm taking great pains not to get bogged down and the like in the 40 - type stuff - but he comes back from one of his campaigns and the ultimate moment in a Roman's career was to demonstrate military glory and the best way to demonstrate military glory was to be granted a victory parade which was known as a triumph. It was prohibited to bring armed troops into the city of Rome, inside what's called the Pomerium, the sacred boundary of the city. For a general who has been voted a triumph, they get to bring their army through and march through the streets and throw big parties and that is THE moment.

Caesar's enemies saw him as this dangerous threat. Here's a populist trying to use the masses to gain political power that could shake up the order. There was a deep fear of populism then as there is now between what would then be defined as the conservative element of Roman society, i.e., the defenders of patrician privilege and Caesar had been awarded a triumph but also wanted to stand for election to Consul. This was before his first consulship. The Romans had this thing called the cursus honorum or the end of course of honors where you went through increasingly more competitive elections. There might be 16 offices of the lowest rung and then there's two at the top and that two at the top is Consul.

So in order to qualify for office you have to be inside the city limits within the date of qualification. He's got his army ready. They've been voted a triumph and they're outside the pomerium but he also needs to be inside the city without his army to qualify. So essentially the Roman Senate and his enemies put him in a position of having to choose between the glory of the triumph and standing for office, which by the way the office expired in a year and if he deferred his candidacy he would have won it a year later. So do you want the office now or do you want the triumph now was really what it came to and everyone expected - triumphs were so rare. There was a period, who knows how accurate it is, but where every triumph and triumphant general was inscribed upon marble that people could see. 'Those are the 20, 30' whatever the number is, of people who have achieved this highest honor of society.

It was a higher order honor than the consulship itself. That is unmistakable. Every Consul was a Consul but not every Consul was a triumph and he went completely against the expectations and entered the city without his army, told his troops, "Go back to your camp", came and stood for office, was elected and that's what really put forward the rest of his political career; understanding the massive power in defying expectations. So don't be who everyone thinks you already are. Be a little bit different because it gets noticed more and then you gain more momentum. You build your brand around yourself.

He was so unique at finding the right moment. I mentioned the time when you could embrace the mob and do what all the other populist reformers in front of you have done, or you could tell them to go home and he told them to go home and everyone was shocked. Here's another great example: Do you triumph or do you achieve the high political office? "I'll go for office. I'll bet on myself. I'll get the triumph later." And he did.

So there you go.

Harrison: I think that's one of the reasons why many among his peers didn't like him, because he was so successful. It's almost hard to put into words and you've done a pretty good job describing what exactly was going on here because there were so many contradictory elements and ways of looking at this because Caesar would do something and at that moment it would be the best for his career, it would be unprecedented and no one would expect it. It would probably good not just for him but for other individuals, other groups, maybe his troops or whomever, allies in the empire who might become citizens or whatever, but he had this way of finding the sweet spot, finding the one thing to do to not only make life better for him in the long term. It's almost like he had this super calculating mind that could see all these possibilities and say, "Okay, that's the one. In this battle how am I going to win this battle?" Running through all of the possibilities, all of the alternate universes. "Okay, that's the one."

It worked for a long time.

Phillip: It's astonishing, the movie A Beautiful Mind when John Nash can see all the numbers loading. You're absolutely right. He had this ability to do that and he always knew how to play the right emotional tone with the right person at the right time. He could be stern when he needed to be. He could be withholding of his affection when he needed to. He could be overly gracious. He could be downright seductive. Obviously his mistresses are legion. {laughter} There were so many of them, because that was part of how he accumulated power. He is an interesting guy.

We've mentioned Cicero off and on. Cicero grew up essentially in the middle class and attained the senatorial rank and was super self-conscious about his status. He was part of a party that was called the Optimates which meant the best men. "We are the best element of society." He was very self-conscious about where he had come from in a way that led him to be super self-conscious and not gracious in all of the ways that you've described him. I think he's also brilliant and deserving - I do need to put a small word in for Cicero because he was also a brilliant rhetorician...

Harrison: Yeah.

Phillip: ...regardless of what underlying psychic challenges he had to overcome. But Caesar's ability to at least project that he didn't take himself too seriously at certain points was important. Nowhere ever in any source that I've come across has said that the guy had a great sense of humor but he has to have. It's almost like when you look at where there was consensus about who he was, part of him had to be funny. Early in his military career he won an award where you wore the civic crown or the grass crown - there are two different things and I can't remember which of the two it was. The historians watching will chastise me for not knowing the difference - but one of the honors that came with it is that if you were wearing it and you walked into a room, everyone would have to stand.

So Caesar to needle the prisses in the room and also to just have a little fun, would put that thing on, walk into the Senate, have everybody stand up, walk out, have everybody sit down, {laughter} walk back in, have everybody stand up. That's funny! He's funny! Even though nothing says he's funny, he's funny. He has to be funny.

Harrison: Well there's another one. Hopefully you'll remember the details because I can't remember. I think Caesar was probably Consul at this point and he might have been dictator, and someone is giving him a hard time in the chamber - it might have been Cato - and Caesar gets a series of letters - I think you might be able to guess where I'm going with this - I'm just going to say it was Cato, maybe not. So if the historians are here, add a comment and tell me I'm wrong and I'll be happy to do that.

So Cato says, "What are you reading?" or something and Caesar reads the letter and it's a love letter from either his ex-wife or something. It's a love letter to Caesar from some woman in what's his name's life so he reads it out loud.

Phillip: Right.

Harrison: That is funny too. It would be even more funny if it wasn't a real letter and he'd just pretended it was. Either way, that is pretty hilarious.

Phillip: Yeah, he's accused in the senate of conspiring and look he's reading personal correspondence. It's probably about how we're going to overthrow the government and whatever, pointing, pointing, pointing, saying "I demand you read what it is right now!" It's like, "Dear Caesar, you're the coolest. Love." Again, I don't remember the circumstances so we will share in the chastisement from those more well informed.

Yeah, it's like, "Okay. You really want me to read this?" {laughter} "Meet me at the bathhouse" type of stuff. {laughter} He always knew how to deflate someone else's balloon without fully popping it.

Elan: I wanted to comment on something because this book that you wrote Phillip, isn't what made Caesar a wonderful man or a wonderful leader. It's the leadership genius of Julius Caesar and it was I think crafted for the types of people that you work with in a corporate capacity. So there are these ideas about who he was and what he did that can be looked at as optimal or fairly constructive by any standards.

There's a passage I'd like to read here from your book. It says,
"Caesar parlayed his self-confidence into stronger organizational faith in his abilities and commitment to his cause. If we cannot take firm action and have the courage of our convictions then how can anyone inside our organization be expected to do the same?"
So something we haven't yet really touched upon about your book is that this was I think written as a 'what are the lessons of these various ways in which Caesar behaved and took action and communicated?' So there's an intention to instill or help the average individual or corporate executive to assimilate Caesar's modus operandi and values. I wonder if you might talk a little bit about that because there are many individuals like ourselves who aren't corporate executives or in that field who are just individuals who are seeking to grow in some dimension or another in their respective fields, organizations or wherever. So what could you say about assimilating who Caesar was for one's own personal enlightenment, awareness or growth?

Phillip: Can I answer this in a torturous, roundabout way?

Elan: Absolutely!

Harrison: Our favorite way.

Phillip: I'll give you just a tiny bit of perspective on how this book came to be which starts to answer the question a little bit. The publisher of this book is Berrett Koehler publishers. It's a boutique in Oakland, California. They're absolutely wonderful people. I'm an absolutely nobody and if you want to feel small in the world try to be a nobody and publish through a publishing house. There's so many people who are there to tell you you're nobody and they were willing to listen to who I was and what I had to say and give me an opportunity to write for an audience.

They did so because I had actually drafted a different version of this book, in fact a radically different version of this book, which I called The Road to Triumph: Ancient Rome on Modern Leadership and I profiled five different people who were either Roman or associated with Rome, including Scipio Africanus for whom my dog is named, my 19-pound Jack Russell/Boston terrier, or that's what we think. He's a rescue dog. That's our best guess. Hannibal, the great Hannibal and one of the chapters is about Caesar. I wrote a 4,500 word manuscript and shopped it around and the Berret Koehler folks said, "We like your voice but not necessarily what you're saying. It's way too broad. Be more specific."

You get that opportunity pause. "I already wrote it, I want to defend it. Oh my god! The thought of starting again is a nightmare." I tried to talk them into letting the original manuscript stand and they said no and they made me essentially resubmit a book proposal that would be more specific to what they were looking for. Then I got really anxious and tried to take Caesar and Augustus who was his successor, who was the concluding chapter of that book and just take half the manuscript out and say, "It's almost done." They said, "It's too broad. It needs to be narrower." We had this debate between us over who we should look at, Caesar or Augustus because Augustus is also brilliant and genius and probably the two greatest leaders in the Roman sense succeeded one another and that is an incredible historical fact. Or at least what I interpret to be fact.

They said, "It's too broad." So finally we settled on Caesar and then they said, "So what? Okay, Caesar's a good leader. So what?" The editors that I worked with there, Neil and Anna, whom I have so much love and respect for, taught me how to say something useful or at least what they felt was useful enough that would warrant putting their name on the side of the book. The 'so what' is so important to say and that's part of why it's different than just a historical treatise because who am I to write? I'm not Adrian Goldsworthy, right? Who wrote Caesar-Life of a Colossus. I'm certainly not Theodor Mommsen. I'm not Richard Meyer. I'm not any of the great biographers of Caesar and they said, "You need to figure out what is unique to your worldview that's unique to Caesar and put those things together in a manner that is going to be something that would be useful to people."

So what I tried to do with this book is to say, "Okay, given the things I'm not qualified for, let me offer you my opinion or maybe I have at least firmer ground to stand on." I think that as I've written the book, my view on him has changed a little bit since writing, the humility to know that you can always grow as a leader and the forgiveness of apparently contradictory things that find their combination in the same person.

A couple of the personal lessons that I've even tried to take since having written this book and my peers and colleagues will judge whether or not I've been successful in that, but at least that's what I've tried for, he is in many ways a man for all people. Whether you agree with my arguments or not, whether you agree with the distillation of certain lessons or not, I am fairly confident that any leader out there can look inside this book, reflect on the life and career of Caesar and say, "There's something in his example that I can learn from" and whether it's drawn from my book or just inspired by the thought process that would lead to some other conclusion, I do hope that anyone who is aiming to be a better leader - and leader always tends to connote business or politics but it's more than that. It's just the role that you play with those with whom you interact.

I think there's something in him for everyone. He is endlessly fascinating. He is an enigmatic yet somehow deeply knowable person. There is a ring of truth to him even today, 2,000 years ago. One of the things I say in the book is I think of all the ancient people he'd be the most comfortable in the modern boardroom. He just had a pragmatism about him that was wholly unique. He could let go of the puffery when he needed to, to just get real. He could be charming and persuasive as opposed to talking and boring rhetoric. He was just an accessible human being even at the highest point of power in his country, which is not technically the right term, but in his country's history to that point no one had ever accumulated as much power as he had and yet he could be a real human being at the same time in a way that was completely unique.

So I think regardless of where anyone falls on a political spectrum, on a historical spectrum, from a business leadership standpoint, whatever, there's something that's in it for everyone. Among the most rewarding things for me in having written this book aside from the privileged opportunity to talk with folks like yourselves who just want to discuss it more, as part of my own little marketing I got 100 copies of the book and I mailed it to every CEO on what was the Fortune 100 at that time with a handwritten note, "I wrote this, I'm giving you a copy. Read it. I'm sure you get millions. If it looks of interest please do and if not, just share it with someone on your team."

I have handwritten notes from about a dozen CEOs, some of whom are absolute legends saying, "Thank you for the book. I read it with great interest" or "I will read it with great interest" or "I gave this so-and-so because." Actually what was really neat for me is that I got about a dozen of those letters. That's about a 12% response rate. That's about six times higher than the average direct response campaign rate would get, which shows that a lot of those leadership values - gratitude, humility, expression, communication, etc. - do find voice in a good number of modern corporate leaders.

So I'm grateful and I actually think that the leadership capabilities that exist in society are a lot higher than perhaps reading headlines about politics might lead people to believe. I promised a roundabout answer and sure as hell that took a while to get there.

Harrison: That was beautiful. Thank you Phillip. Maybe we can wrap up shortly because that was a good place to almost end, but I wanted to ask one more thing about your new book.

Phillip: Yes.

Harrison: But as a lead in to that, you mentioned the inner conflict of judging a person from 2,000 years ago by our standards or their standards and particularly with Caesar, we can look at him and look at all of the things that he did, the wars that he engaged in, what would now be considered genocide and ethnic cleansing, which all Roman generals engaged in, and look at it by today's standards or the standards of 2,000 years ago, but one other thing that we can do is look at him not only within the standards of his time but we can compare him with others of his time and see how he might align with what others were like.

You've done that a few times so far in the interview today. You could compare him to one previous dictator, not the closest in time, Sulla who had interactions with Caesar's uncle Marius. You compare how Sulla did things and how Caesar did things and Sulla was a pretty nasty guy, nasty by today's standards for sure and in comparison to Caesar also quite nasty. Your new book is Evil Roman Emperors. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about it, its genesis and how you would fit Caesar into that. I know from reading the description of the book it's almost like a countdown where you get to the most evil emperor in your assessment.

So I won't ask you to reveal the number one unless you want to but maybe talk a little bit about the new book.

Phillip: Sure. Thanks for bringing up Sulla. Felix was his surname meaning lucky. It's kind of funny because he didn't really achieve much by luck. He achieved a lot through brutality and there's not a dedicated chapter on him but he is featured in a way that makes my argument about why he deserves consideration for being among the very worst.

By the way, there is a book in between which is called The History of Rome in 12 Buildings which is my attempt to help people orient where they are when they're in Rome through the history of the specific place.

Harrison: Cool.

Phillip: It's place-based history and I had a lot of fun writing that book. I'm immeasurably proud of it. Nevertheless, Evil Roman Emperors. I hate the name. I wasn't allowed to pick it. I hated it at the time. I kind of like it now because it is just blunt. It is what it is.

Harrison: Yeah.

Phillip: Part of it is because of my geekery. Not all the people covered are emperors. In historical terms, the empire and therefore the emperors that sat atop it cover but a smaller portion of a broader historical pattern. So there was a monarchy. There was the republic. There were interregnums between rulers. I try to take the whole sweep of Roman history and look at who are the very worst. I also - and I think it's very unique - I don't just consider people. I also consider institutions. This isn't a spoiler because if you look at the table of contents you'll see a chapter on something that's called the Praetorian Guard which was a military body that evolved to serve as the bodyguard for the emperor. They were at a point, the only armed troops allowed in the city and they used that power for very ill means, including assassinating a ton of emperors to either put puppets in or try to get their own people in charge.

My friend Aurelian whom I first met through the city walls, when you get to know him, he was only emperor for five years but they were five of the most extraordinary years in terms of accomplishment and he was murdered by his own Praetorian Guard. So for reasons like that the Praetorians are in there. There's an argument to be made that the Senate was in there. There are kings that ruled, largely semi-mythic but at least based on what the sources say, that deserve consideration.

So it's trying to take the worst of and distill down who they were and why, but to do it in a manner that's not voyeuristic, that's not overly indulgent in the bloodshed that resulted from these terrible people. The caption that I wrote was 'A lighthearted look at the dark side of the Roman soul', and trying to not keep saying, "and he killed 10,000 people" and "oh and he killed 8,000", "oh and he slaughtered these people" because that gets repetitive and it's dull.

So not just why but in a way it gets to the same point. 'What's the essence of the person making these decisions? What was the character?' Obviously someone like a Nero or a Caligula is going to show up on this list. Who were they? WHY were they that way? What things shaped them that led them to believe? What is the debate about what the essence of their character was? And oh, by the way, here's the decisions that they made and the actions that they made that make the argument that warrant consideration on this list.'

So there's actually 11 people. One chapter is two people that were related to one another that served in rapid succession at the very end of the empire. So it kind of takes them chronologically and then goes 10 to one and my argument as to why. I think it's fun. I really enjoyed writing the book. I really hope it's successful. One of the weird little quirks about being an otherwise nobody is that each publisher considers the book sales of the prior book before they decide whether or not they're going to put a book out for you. So this is my 'oh god, please buy this book because if you don't I won't be allowed to write another!' {laughter}

So to your audience, you have great power. You can either further my writing career {laughter} or you can crush my soul and spirit. It's entirely up to you. {laughter} But the book is actually, I think, quite a lot of fun. It is amazing that Rome lasted as long as it did with so many terrible people. It shows the power of the institutions that they built to govern over a long period of time that almost disconnected the capriciousness of any individual ruler over the success of the cumulative whole. Rome lasted, if you want to measure it a certain way, about 2,000 years from the founding of the city to the collapse of Byzantium. And that's not for nothing, right? It did some things right along the way despite the bad people so it's also to celebrate the resiliency of its institutions as well.

Harrison: What did the Romans ever do for us? {laughter}

Phillip: That's right! Exactly.

[Monty Python clip: What have the Romans ever done for us?] {laughter}

Phillip: So funny. There's a lot to be learned on the continuum of entertainment to conveyance of knowledge and insight, all of which have value. This is definitely more entertainment than it is business insights. No one's going to try to say, "You know what? I want to approach this meeting like Caligula." {laughter} Or let's hope not! I'm sure there are plenty of CEOs, maybe all the ones that didn't respond {laughter} when I mailed them a copy of this damn book in the first place! I will say, I try very hard to avoid what I would call a lesson in the negative.

Here's an example in terms of business leadership or community leadership. 'Here's the awful example that you shouldn't learn from.' I think it's more helpful to give people positive examples. 'Here's a good example of an element of a particular behaviour that you can model from.' So this is definitely not framed as much as a leadership book although I think there are some, "Oh gosh, here's some patterns that I need to be on the lookout for to evolve." Either way I hope it's fun. I liked it. I'm happy with it. I'm proud of it. I'm proud of the previous ones and I'm very grateful to the people who have given me an audience both to write and to talk about it because as someone who's an avowed nobody in this space I wouldn't be here without you. So thank you very much for the opportunity to do it.

Harrison: Great. Thank you Phillip. We're looking forward to the new book. It comes out May 15? Is that correct?

Phillip: I think they kicked the pub date back to June 1st because of a backlog in the printer because covid ruined everything. Now they're trying to bring people back in, production runs, etc. So June 1st. But it's available for pre-order now so in some respects, you can go get it if you want. {laughter} By the way, as in the nobody status, those mean reviews really hurt my feelings! {laughter} So be nice to me! I swear I'm a nice guy. I'm just trying my best. {laughter} So reading books is important. Writing reviews is too so to your audience - I don't just mean this as self-serving - thank you for engaging with authors. I have a lot of friends who are at a similar entry level position in this world and it actually means a lot to us to hear from you, what you think and when you have something nice to say please don't withhold it because it's immensely helpful.

My dear friend who is the only person who's been thanked in the acknowledgment sections of every book I've ever written, including three that I've written that I haven't published because they were ultimately deemed to be not good, said that it is the enduring fearing of authors that someone somewhere is just about to discover that you're no good and it's true. It's agonizing to put your name on something and offer it to the world. It's agonizing to come here and hope that you like me and what I have to say. But my ultimate reaction here is gratitude. I am so grateful for the chance to talk to you and to learn from you and hear more about yourselves as well and your work. Consider me at your service. Anything that I can do for you from here on out, it would be my pleasure and honor to do so.

Harrison: Great. Thank you Phillip. I just wanted to say one final thing. I've read several books on Caesar, like I was saying before we started recording. I'm a big fan of Caesar. I like reading about that time and this individual and even though I've read many of the 'greats' like Mattias Gelzer and Mommsen and some of the newer ones, I still think that your book is my favorite Caesar book. It's not a history so you can't go to it for his full life or anything like that, but there is...

Elan: It's essential.

Harrison: There's an emotional connection that I could feel with not only you but with the time and with Caesar; something about actually looking at might just be one interpretation of his character but one which I happen to think is probably pretty close to accurate and something that I don't find reading a lot of histories, even a lot of the big ones that get into all kinds of stuff. In little bits and pieces you got to what I consider could be and probably is, the essence of what this guy was actually like in all of that contradiction and complexity and enigma and all of those things. So I just wanted to thank you again for writing an engaging book. Thank you for reminding me of that other book because I'd forgotten about that one. I don't have it, the one about Rome in 12 building.

Phillip: The History of Rome in 12 Building.

Harrison: So I'll include links to your books in the description so people can get them. Is there a preferred place to pre-order the new book?

Phillip: Everything is Amazon's, as much as the iconoclastic trend in me says - they're the ones. That's where to get the book.

Harrison: I'll include links then to there so people can pre-order it because I'm looking forward to it. So thanks again Phillip. We had a great time. Take care and we'll look forward to the new book.

Phillip: Yes, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you all.

Elan: It was a real pleasure. Thank you.