William Sprankles @wsprankles
When I first saw the rows on rows of Terracotta Warriors in Xian, I was struck by the artistry and sheer volume. Each warrior had its own unique facial features, different from all of the surrounding soldiers who stood shoulder to shoulder ready to battle for their emperor. The Terracotta Warriors are truly a marvelous display and a testament to their creators, yet there is a bittersweet feeling when you learn the history of their creation.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the warriors to be constructed for his afterlife. Even in death Emperor Qin wanted to be a strong ruler with the assistance of his clay army. There are estimates that over 8,000 terracotta warriors were prepared and buried near the Emperor’s tomb.
Emperor Qin is credited with uniting the separate territories into one China, completing the Great Wall of China, and establishing one monetary system and one written language. There is no doubt that he accomplished important achievements during his reign. Even with these accomplishments, many consider Emperor Qin to have been one of the most brutal and despotic rulers. He set up strict laws and punished offenders with death, banned books and scholars, demanded high taxes, and forced his people to grueling labor to craft his terracotta warriors.
His legacy as a leader is tainted by his desire to rule his way without listening to others. He was too busy worrying about his own mortality while disregarding the suffering of his people. I enjoyed the craftsmanship and innovation demonstrated by the Terracotta Warriors, but I do not believe that the means justified the ends.
Emperor Qin demanded complete obedience. He did not tolerate any dissension. It is ironic that Emperor Qin ordered each terracotta soldier to be unique, yet he stifled the people’s individualism and silenced their voices. Leaders need to be humble. They must be willing to listen to conflicting voices. Leaders should be the ones to sacrifice instead of demanding that others sacrifice for them. Leaders set the example by becoming the changes they wish to see in others (Ghandi). They promote risk taking, innovation, and even disagreement without becoming disagreeable. Effective leaders do not try to build their own soldiers but build support for their vision through caring, communication, and modeling their expectations. They do not try to have others build warriors but, instead build consensus and promote a culture in which collective leadership emerges for the good of the organization. One of my professors (Dr. Michael Chirichello) told me that good leaders help cultivate and develop other leaders instead of forcing people to follow them.
We are all leaders in some capacity; even if you are not an emperor you are a leader! Challenge yourself to be the kind of leader you would want to willingly follow. Allow the leader in you to shine through and encourage others to take the lead too. What do you want your leadership legacy to be?
By Linda DiMarco
Princeton High School
Intervention Specialist & Ninth Grade Team Leader
Special Education Co-Department Chair