May 20 2011

WisdomWall: Louis XIV on Leadership

Louis_xiv_of_france

Elizabeth II has been reigning over us for a long time, but it is unlikely she will overtake the world record holder Louis XIV of France. He became king of France in 1643 at the age of 4, and remained monarch till his death (from gangrene) at age 76.

Practice makes perfect.

He was very very good at playing the role of Le Roi Soleil – the Sun King. He had a daily ritual, or ‘lever’, which began with a royal dressing that took 2 hours. He had the kingly-look down pat, and built the grand palace at Versailles to match. When he moved the court to Versailles, he devoted his old place, Le Louvre, to the arts, of which he was a magniicent patron. He became the archetypal royal whose style  the rest did their best to follow – the Lady Gaga of his time.

Chateau-de-versailles-cour

However, where he outdid the other monarchs was that as well as being excellent at playing the part of king, he devoted himself to being good at the real work of leadership – administration and decision making and law making and the other duties that noblesse oblige. With no power sharing magna carta, French kings were significantly more powerful than English ones.He successfully centralised power in Paris, codifed the civil law across France (Code Louis), modernised the army, and developed the French economy with a skilled migration scheme, an improved system of taxation and a focus on export earnngs. This may be how he escaped the beheading that was the fate of many of his foreign contemporaries.

This then is the advice he wrote to his grandson Philip before he assumed the job of king of Spain.

“Never favour those who flatter you the most, but hold rather to those who risk your displeasure for your own good. Never neglect business for pleasure, organise your life so that there is time in it for relaxation and entertainment. Give the business of government your full attention. Inform yourself as much as you can before taking any decision. Make every effort to get to know men of distinction, so that you may call on them when you need them. Be courteous to all, speak hurtfully to no man”

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