There is a clip from the movie 300 that I mark as a favorite on YouTube and occasionally revisit. Most times, I watch it just prior to a Michigan State football or basketball game (for obvious reasons…if you don’t understand, you’re not a Spartan, and I’m sorry for you). For some unknown reason, I opened that clip this morning, and became inspired to write…

In the scene, the Arcadians, led by Daxos (played by Andrew Pleavin), meet up with King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), the leader of the Spartans. Daxos and his men are prepared to fight the Persians alongside Leonidas and his men, but the Arcadian leader is surprised that Leonidas brought only 300 soldiers. What follows is a classic reply in the vein of “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog” and definitely worth watching:

What is the lesson here? Daxos’ men were not committed to the mission…they lacked a sense of purpose. “What is your profession?” “I’m a potter.” “Sculptor, sir.” “Blacksmith.” All of these are worthy professions, but Leonidas was making the point that his 300 more than matched the level of “commitment” of the Arcadians. “You see, old friend, I brought more soldiers than you did.”

Leonidas brought 300, but through a level of shared commitment, his force may have been as strong as 3,000, or 30,000.

As a leader, it is imperative to make sure that your mission is easy to understand, and one that your staff can become fully committed to. The idea of mission-driven purpose is not new, or earth-shattering. But I am reminded almost daily that if you have a clear purpose (as an individual or as an organization) and act in accordance with your purpose, you will have the strength of 300.

Spartans, what is your profession?