The Great Captain and his form of leadership

December 12, 2011

The Great Captain rode up and down, reining in here and there to address now one, now another man by name, cracking jokes, having a cheerful word for some, giving others a challenge he knew would be met: “To one standard-bearer, Londoño, he said, ‘Londoño, I know who will be the first to set the flag on the battlements of Ostia Castle tomorrow.’ To Alonso de Sotomayor, he said, ‘Señor Alonso, I can tell who will take Menaldo Guerri prisoner tomorrow.’ At Ostia, just before attacking, he addressed his troops, as was his custom before engagements: ‘In this fight we are all resolved to serve the Supreme Pontiff, to please King Frederico, and to do high credit to our country. We also purpose to gain honor and fame for ourselves and our descendants, and to demonstrate before all nations the greatness of Spain.’”

Don Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, El Gran Capitán

“This direct, personal approach was,” says De Lojendio, “his habitual way of commanding. His orders were not cold, dry, peevish, bleak, as are those of leaders who think that authority is directly related to browbeating, superciliousness or harshness. He commanded in a humane manner; he did not need to order; he invited his subordinates not merely to share the risk of the enterprise, but also the honor and prestige which would follow their vigorous action. Those who were the most flattered, because of his having singled them out publicly as men in whom he had the utmost confidence, felt themselves to be under obligation to live up to his opinion of them. What a lesson in the difficult art of commanding Spaniards!”


Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. Detail of the Monument to Isabella of Castile, the Catholic at the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid

Mary Purcell, The Great Captain: Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1962), pp. 113-114.


Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 133



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