The Winning Formula

Sustainability

12 business growth lessons from the Pharaohs’ pyramid-building journey

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 built by any of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

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.

There are many parallels to the pyramid-building journey of the pharaohs and the sustainability journey faced by entrepreneurs and leaders in business today.

  1. The Pharaoh and the entrepreneur both share a common single-minded determination to create something unique and rewarding in their lifetime. Fulfilling a personal ambition is important.
  2. Both journeys involve the initial development of a vision by a single person. The Pharaoh’s desire was to build a monument that could transfer him to the New World. The wish of the entrepreneur today is to build a growing, successful and sustainable business.
  3. Leadership plays a critical role in the development, support to and realisation of any vision, whether you are a Pharaoh or an entrepreneur.
  4. A great vision has a great purpose attached to it, making it easier to enlist the support of others. Pharaohs understood this. Successful entrepreneurs recognise this too.
  5. Leading people into the unknown is often an unexpected similarity on each journey. People were asked to take a leap of faith and trust the leader (the Pharaoh) and his officials on the journey. Employees in most businesses today are similarly asked to trust the leader, many of whom may have little experience and knowledge in the unique dynamic of growing and developing a business.
  6. Pharaohs faced the same people performance challenges as modern-day leaders – from resignation to recruitment, cynicism to optimism, complacency to commitment. Little has changed in over four thousand years.
  7. Leadership and management are two different and important journey disciplines. Very few Pharaohs were natural-born ‘people managers’ and they left this important task to their high officials. Many entrepreneurs readily admit that they do not possess the management skills required to get the best out of others.
  8. ‘Building the pyramid’ and a business can take a lifetime to complete. The landscape constantly changes. Learning how to navigate the correct path and keep people on track is an important skill expected of the leader.
  9. In ancient times, navigating the changing landscape required the need for an agile workforce. Successful entrepreneurs also understand the need for agility to help them to respond quickly to any issues and events which may affect the performance of their business.
  10. Culture is important. Innovation, attention to detail, financial control, teamwork and other high-performance behaviours are common place on both journeys.
  11. Performance complacency is a common fear of leaders particularly when progress on the journey is good. Setting high standards and a constant focus on operational efficiency helps to avoid this.
  12. Ownership is the ‘holy grail’ on the journey – the ultimate cultural prize demanded of all ambitious leaders. Without personal accountability linked to each individual’s role in the workplace, success is impossible to achieve.

Finally it’s worth noting that great pharaohs created memorable journeys. They inspired others to buy-in to their vision, believe in the possible, embark on the journey and deliver success for the kingdom.

Many great leaders – the modern-day business pharaohs – such as Richard Branson, James Dyson and Michele Mone possess the same inspirational qualities.

They recognise that ‘everyone dreams of being part of something special’ and that by using the powerful experience of the journey, performance momentum can be maintained resulting in the delivery of their vision.

Adventure, purpose, challenge and a sense of belonging are strong and effective drivers of people performance on the journey.

Great journeys also live long in the memory of those who participate in them.

Just ask any Pharaoh.

Best wishes on your journey, wherever it may take you.

John Stein is the Founder of The Winning Formula® and the author of the new leadership, growth and performance book Building the Pyramid. ISBN 9780954713416. The publication is also available as an E-Book. Building the Pyramid can be purchased direct from this website or from www.buildingthepyramid.com