The Great Pyramid at Giza, built for King Khufu in 2589 BC is the only survivor of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ and is the largest pyramid ever built by any of the Egyptian Pharaohs.
It was at the time of its completion, and still is today the largest stone structure ever built.
Eighty other similar monuments still stand today – a testament to the ambition of the Pharaohs and the dedication and work ethic of the people of ancient Egypt.
But how were they built and what lessons can leaders take from the pyramid builders?
A lot more than you might first think.
There are many parallels to the pyramid-building journey of the pharaohs and the journey faced by leaders in their organisations today.
To begin with, the Pharaoh and the business leader shared a common single-minded determination to create something totally unique.
The Pharaoh’s desire was to build a monument that could not only transfer him to the New World, but also would be a dynamic place where his people could relax, worship, and proudly say ‘we built that’.
In the case of forward-thinking leaders today, the desire is to build a solid and successful organisation. They aim to create an outstanding and sustainable organisation which is different from others in their sector or marketplace. Like the pyramid, the organisation is designed for the living. For people to say ‘we built that’.
The pyramid-building ‘journey’ towards completion involved six key phases of construction. Building the organisation requires a collective focus from leaders and their teams on six important strategic and operational areas.
Both journeys involve the initial development of a vision by a single person.
Leadership plays a critical role in the development, support to and realisation of any vision, whether you are a Pharaoh or a Chief Executive.
Leading people into the unknown – whether in ancient times, or today in business – is also an important but unexpected similarity on each journey.
It could take twenty years to build the pyramid, meaning that few Egyptian people had previous experience, and the workforce would constantly change during its construction. People were therefore asked to take a leap of faith and trust the leader (the Pharaoh), his officials and the journey.
The workforce of an organisation today with new, ambitious and exciting plans for change and growth are similarly asked to trust the leaders, many of whom may have little experience and knowledge in the unique dynamic of growing and developing a sustainable organisation.
But although the highs and lows experienced in many organisations today could easily echo the events, experiences and outcomes involved in the building of the pyramid over four thousand years ago, many leaders could learn more from the work of Pharaohs and their people – particularly when you consider the importance attached to the people aspect of the journey.
Attracting and recruiting talent, obtaining buy-in and commitment to future plans, aligning strategy to performance, motivating others, inspiring innovation, building trust, developing a learning culture and improving leadership capability were important people objectives in ancient Egypt.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it.
Next time you see a pyramid reflect on the challenges faced by the people participating on the journey and consider what is possible to achieve when visionary leadership, focus and the right culture come together.
The outcome can be spectacular and last the test of time.
Best wishes on your journey, wherever it may take you.