identified the oldest book on leadership as one written by a Greek in the 4th
Century BC, Xenophon of Athens, about a Persian in the 6th Century
BC, Cyrus the Great – a leader so great that he also gets a positive mention
when he makes a cameo appearance about half way through the Bible.
However, the earliest management advice that has come down
to us is found nearer the front of the Bible, in one of the first five books.
of Exodus describes how Moses, the reluctant leader of 600,000 Israelites,
is visited by his wise father-in-law, Jethro – who is
concerned to see his son-in-law busy from morning till evening deciding trivial
“What you are doing is not good,” says Jethro. “You and the
people with you will wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you;
you are not able perform it alone.”
He advises that Moses selects trustworthy men who hate a
bribe, and appoint them as officers in charge of tens, fifties, hundreds, and
“And let them judge the people at all times; every great
matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide
themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with
There is no better summary of the art of the delegation
which is the foundation of all leadership and of the decentralisation which is
the foundation of all efficient management structures.
Moses accepts Jethro’s advice and it proves successful.
Then, like all management consultants after him, Jethro departs and goes on his
way, but, unlike his successors, he does not appear to have demanded a fee ...
or suggested more consulting.