Though Roman Centurions have a history of more than 2100 years, they practiced many management concepts that are required for managers even today. The Romans created a concept of how a manager should be chosen, how to lead a team and other important characteristics of being a manager. Management lessons from Centurions are broadly applicable for first line officers, professional managers, and for many others in managerial positions.

For 2100 years, it is well-known that the subordinate has a right to have a good manager who is capable to train and guide him effectively. The manager should have all-round expertise in various fields to face any kind of situations. To be led by a capable manager is the right of a soldier, and it was recognized and followed even in 107 BC.

Who is a Centurion?
A Centurion is a professional officer equivalent to a captain in the Roman Army since 107 BC. Earlier, Centurions commanded a ‘centuria’ or ‘century’ that means a company or a tribe. A Centurion led anywhere between 80 to 100 men, and in particular 100 at full strength.

A Centurion used different tools, as his role was different from his legionaries (army). It is easy to spot him in the battlefield - horsehair chest on helmet, cloak of fine material, sword on left side, and a vine stick that was often used to punish his men. Each Centurion could hire an optio, who is a second in command in position for that century. A Centurion typically hires an optio to perform administrative functions like enforcing his orders, taking commands in battles, supervise subordinates, and to take lead in his absence.

He was often of the humble origin, and is not from the aristocracy. Moreover, a Centurion’s son can’t become a Centurion automatically i.e. it is not inherited. Centurion is not the aristocratic only position.

Centurion is personally responsible for training and disciplining soldiers. He had a well-deserved reputation of giving harsh punishments for his soldiers under his command.

If there were enough Centurions to lead, some of the extra Centurions performed a variety of tasks ranging from training to cavalry, providing security to governors, and medical service to emperors based on the requirement both within the century itself and in other units.

Why Centurions are admired?
Centurion was the role model and led the Century at the drill, on the march, and in battle. He was a skilled professional and the best soldier who could be relied on to run a Legion on a campaign and in battle.

1. Lead from front
During war, Centurion usually leads his soldiers from the front, occupying a position at the front right of the century formation. He leads and inspires his men by example. Historians cite examples of them being the first over the enemies’ walls or through the breach in walls. They also have to display the skill and courage that made them to achieve the rank in the first place.

Though it is kings and other aristocrats who were the rulers, when it comes to war and leading the cavalry, it is the leaders like Centurions who fought alongside of soldiers guiding from the front and winning battles. Centurions led their legionaries by guiding from the frontline and are among the first to break into enemy’s army.

As Centurions are stationed in the front of the century formation, they are heavily wounded in battles by taking the first strike from the enemy. For this reason, they often face disproportionate number of casualties in a battle.

2. Highly skilled in using all kinds of weapons
A Roman Centurion was chosen for his size, strength, and dexterity in throwing the missile weapons, and sword and shield using skills.

3. Right temperance and attitude
Centurions also had to have the right temperament and attitude. He has to be vigilant, active and ready to execute the orders he receives than to talk. In short, he is chosen for his expertness in all the exercises.

Julius Caesar is said to have promoted someone to Centurions for display of courage and spirit. Caesar even doubled the strength of the soldiers for his high performing Centurions.

4. Practical knowledge from prior experiences
Only the very best soldiers could hope to become Centurions and this would take 15 years! Therefore, if he had entered the army at age of 16, he would have spent almost half his life in the military, giving him the experience needed to know how to command his century well.

Lessons in Management from Roman Centurions
1. Capable – Centurions are chosen based on their abilities but not on their social class and inheritance. Anyone can become a Centurion if he is capable enough.
2. Multi-skilled – The manager should be an all-rounder i.e. skilled in a variety of areas (swords, shield, Javelin, and knife).
3. Attitude, skills, courage, and knowledge of battle situations – 15 years of strong experience as a soldier at various positions gives enough tools and techniques to perform at the deciding moment. If he is not good enough to brace the situation, he could die in the first five minutes of the war, as he is among the first to face the enemy’s army.
4. A subordinate has the right to have a good manager
A manager has many authorities/privileges. But he has to be capable skill wise, attitude wise, and knowledge wise. This covers mental, physical, and emotional aspects.

Author's Bio: 

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