DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


This is the book that we used for the class. It is written by Ronald Heifetz

Theory and practice of leadership 

Professor Kamal

     One of the best classes I have taken in Manhattanville is theory and practice of leadership. From start to finish, I enjoyed learning the tricks that turn good students into great leaders. As a former ambassador of Pakistan and a United nations diplomat, Professor Kamal used his immense experience to teach us how to become excellent speakers and great writers. Each week, we explored the successes and failures of iconic and historic leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Sun Tsu, Themistocles and so on. I have posted my final term paper below.


Henock Tsegaye 
Professor Ahmed Kamal
Manhattanville college


Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia (1844 – 1913)






      The year was 1844 AD, Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia), located in the horn of Africa, was being torn apart by a constant state of social and political unrest that came to be known as the Zemene Mesafint, which directly translates to ‘the Era of the Princes’ or ‘the Era of the Judges’. It was a period that was characterized by a fierce power struggle amongst numerous opposing warlords or princes, each trying to dominate the other and crown himself as ruler of Abyssinia while trampling a weak, puppet central government located in the then capital city called Gonder. In fact, this period in Ethiopian history can be likened to the turbulent period in 16th century Japanese history when every warlord fought one another to become the Shogun or ultimate commander of a force. 
Due to the lack of a strong centralized government and the incessant skirmishes amongst warlords, Ethiopia became weak, fractionated and vulnerable - politically, economically and militarily. Internal and external trade became almost non-existent. Most merchants feared for their safety, and those who braved the dangers, could not afford to pay taxes that each warlord imposed at every border crossing. And such was the dire state in which Ethiopia welcomed her new born leader Menelik II in 1844. 
Emperor Menelik II is perhaps the most important historical figure and an iconic leader in Ethiopia’s past. Born in Shewa on August 17th 1844 from his father, Negus# Haile Melekot and his mother Weizero# Ijigayehu, Emperor Menelik II was able to ingeniously rise to power, expand his sphere of influence, modernize his country, establish a new capital city and do what no other African leader had done before – repel a colonizing European nation. Consequently, the purpose of this paper is to explore and analyze the successes and failures of Emperor Menelik II and compare his leadership skills to that of Hartwick Classic Case Studies





A. Emperor Menelik II’s Rise to Power and Legitimacy to rule


           Emperor Menelik II’s legitimacy to rule has come under question from the very beginning. As aforementioned, Emperor Menelik II was the son of Negus Haile Melekot of Shewa. However, Negus Haile Melekot of Shewa was not married to Menelik II’s mother Weizero Ijigayeh, making Menelik II an illegitimate child. Historical accounts, however, show that Negus Sahle Selassie ( Father of Haile 
Melekot) had succeeded in declaring Menelik II as a legitimate child, heir to the throne with bloodlines to the Solomonic Dynasty#. But that was not the only obstacle Menelik II faced on his ascent to the throne. Shortly after the death of Negus Haile Melekot, a new ruler by the name Neguse Negest Tewodros II or Emperor Tewodros II brought almost all of the warring states under his rule, through a series of successful military conquest to establish a strong centralized government seated at Megdala and officially ending the Zemene Mesafint in 1855#. Soon after, Neguse Negest Tewodros II also brought Shewa under his rule and kidnapped the only person that could threaten his power, Menelik II, and brought him back to Magdala as a prisoner. Neguse Negest Tewodros then decided to replace Menelik II with Ato Bezabeh who was not from the Solomonic dynasty. Outraged by Neguse Negest Tewodros’ decision, Shewan nobilities decided to abscond Menelik II from Magdala to reinstate him as King of Shewa. 
Shortly after Menelik’s escape, Neguse Negest Tewodros was defeated by a British convoy sent to rescue imprisoned Europeans. Neguse Negest Tewodros, however, refused to surrender and committed suicide. With Neguse Negest Tewodros dead, the imperial throne was Menelik’s for the taking. However, another rival who was an ally of the British claimed the throne and was crowned Neguse Negest Yohannes . Even though, Menelik II had more legitimacy and stronger blood ties to the Solomonic dynasty, he chose to submit to Neguse Negest Yohannes’s and in turn Neguse Negest Yohannes recognized Menelik as Negus of Shewa#. It was only after the death of Neguse Negest Yohannes in 1888 that Negus Menelik was crowned Neguse Negest of Ethiopia in 1889.


B. A Foreign threat and the Treaty of Wuchale


            The news of Neguse Negest Yohannes’ death reached Negus Menelik II while he was in Wuchale, Wello (region in Northern Ethiopia) to sign a treaty with Italy represented by Count Pietro Antonelli. According to the agreement Negus Menelik II would give recognition to Italy’s colony along the Red sea coast now called Eritrea. In return, Menelik II would get military backing from Italy on his plan to reintegrate the whole of Ethiopia and expand its borders further south. However, the treaty was a scam intended to trick Menelik II into signing his country away. In particular, Article 17 of the treaty had two completely different meanings in the Italian and Amharic # version. The Amharic version stated that “The Emperor of Ethiopia could avail himself of the services of the government of the King of Italy in his dealings with the powers of Europe if he so wished.” The Italian translation of the same clause, however, stated that “the Emperor of Ethiopia "consented" to use the government of the King of Italy for his contacts with the powers of Europe#. Although, the first clause was entirely innocuous, the second clause was intended to make Ethiopia a protectorate of Italy. Unbeknownst to Menelik II, the same ruse has been employed countless times by European colonialists on other African nations. The trick was eventually exposed when Emperor Menelik II heard news that other European leaders such as Queen Victoria of Great Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and President Carnot of the French Republic no longer recognized Ethiopia as a sovereign state but a protectorate of Italy. And to make matters worse, Italy had advanced into Ethiopian territories far beyond the borders set by the treaty of Wuchale. Angered by new developments, Emperor Menelik II said ‘This country is mine and no other nation can have it”8 and nullified the treaty. His actions set the stage for one of the most decisive battle fought in Ethiopian history, the battle of Adwa. 
Thinking of the impending Italian offensive, Emperor Menelik II quickly began looking for allies elsewhere. And, Russia welcomed him with open arms. Emperor Menelik II was a Russophile. He understood how the European politics worked and knew that only Russia supported his policy of integration of Ethiopia, and therefore reached out to Czar Alexander III for military assistance#. In preparation for war with Italy, Emperor Menelik II also initiated friendly relations with France because he knew the French don’t tolerate Italian expansion in the horn of Africa. 
On September 17th 1895, the sound of drum signaled the declaration of war, and Menelik II mobilized his army. He famously said, “Now, you who are strong, lend me your might…if you refuse to follow me, beware… I shall not fail to punish you”8


C. The Battle of Adwa


           The Emperor along with his loyal generals namely Ras#Mekonnen, Ras Alula, Ras Mengesha, Ras Mikael and Empress Taytu marched north to intercept the advancing Italian force from the newly established capital, Addis Ababa with an army of 150,000 soldiers. His general and Empress Taytu were able to secure minor victories over a small Italian force prior to the battle of Adwa. For instance, Ras Mekonnen massacred 1600 Italian soldiers led by Major Tocelli. Empress Taytu also secured her fair share of victory. She was able to siege and drive out a well-entrenched Italian army from a city called Mekele for a couple of days. Motivated by their recent victories, the Ethiopian force marched further north to a small market town called Adwa to face the main Italian army led by general Oreste Barateiri. The Italian army consisted of 18,000 men (Italians and Eritreans) and 56 artillery guns which were outnumbered by the Ethiopian force by five times.# As Chris Prouty described the scene, the Italians were not at all prepared for the battle. They had inadequate knowledge of the terrain, poor maps, old guns, poor communication, small number of mules and a low morale.# It is important to note that although the Italian force was much smaller, it was better equipped compared to the Ethiopian army which was composed of a cavalry and an infantry only armed with lances. Emperor Menelik’s reserve, however, also had riflemen. It was also accompanied by Russian advisors and volunteers. 
           Emperor Menelik’s also excelled in using espionage and the art of deception to beat the Italians. For instance, a day before the actual battle, Emperor Menelik sent Ethiopian spies to General Baratieri pretending to be defectors with useful battle information. The spies advised General Baratieri to attack the next day which was Sunday. They promised him that since most Ethiopians are very religious they would not fight on Sunday. What General Baratieri did not know was that Emperor Menelik was manipulating him into attacking where and when Emperor Menelik wanted to him to attack. It was an ambush. 
             At the crack of dawn on March 1st 1896, the Italian army advanced to position itself on high ground but ill-equipped and lacking a good knowledge of the surrounding terrain, the army got separated and unstructured. In fact, the Ethiopian forces got the hills first and positioned themselves at a vantage point on high ground overlooking the Adwa valleys#. At the heat of the battle, Emperor Menelik ordered his massive wave of infantry to corner the Italian brigade into a narrow valley which were then massacred by Emperor Menelik advancing cavalry. And a few hours later, the surviving Italians were retreating after sustaining large number of causalities. Hence, the battle of Adwa became a decisive blow to Italian pride, and reaffirmed Ethiopia’s military strength and sovereignty. 
             The wake of the First Ethio-Italian war meant that Italy had to recognize Ethiopia’s full independence and sign the Treaty of Addis Ababa on October 26, 1896. Consequently, the battle of Adwa became symbol of hope for all Africans in their struggle against European oppression, and Emperor Menelik became the pride of not just Ethiopia or Africa, but the whole of the black community. #
Some scholars have wondered why, after winning the battle of Adwa, Emperor Menelik didn’t continue to march north into Eritrea to expel the Italians all together. Different factors might have discouraged Emperor Menelik from advancing north such as the advent of the rainy season, the famine that crippled Northern Ethiopia at the time and/or the fear of turning a ‘minor colonial war into a national crusade’# Taking all these factors into account, some argue Emperor Menelik made a strategic retreat.


D. The Famine of 1888-1892


          In 1888, a viral disease called Rinderpest was accidentally introduced to Ethiopia from India which killed more than 90% of the cattle population. Compounded with the lack of rainfall, crop destructions by swarm of locusts and a cholera outbreak in all parts of Ethiopia except the southern states, the famine killed hundreds of thousands of people especially in the northern parts of the country. It was during these hard times that Menelik II showed his deep love and compassion for his people. In the hardest hit areas, the Emperor forgave debts and even gave tax-exemptions. And, because of his noble deeds, people started to refer to him as Immiye Menelik which means ‘our beloved mother Menelik’. In some instance, he himself travelled to famine afflicted areas with a hand-held hoe to furrow fields and show the people that even if the disease claimed the lives of their cattle, there is no shame in farming by hand to feed their families#


E Policy of Expansion


Although Emperor Menelik was considered by many as a merciful ruler, he was very ruthless when it came to power. Unlike the Emperors before him, he was very reluctant to crown kings within his state and wished for a greater centralization of power. To make that a reality, he conducted numerous military expeditions to dominate and integrate weaker yet multiethnic and multilingual states south and east of Shewa. Kawo Tona of Wollaita, Abba Jiffar II of Jimma and Emir Abdullahi of Harrar were one by one defeated and assimilated into the growing empire. Hence, by incorporating these smaller states, the emperor made sure that no other colonial power would use these weak states as a stepping stone to attack his empire. In doing so, he also demarcated Ethiopia’s official border.


F. Modernization


         Emperor Menelik II was a very ambitious ruler who firmly believed in the modernization of Ethiopia. He was very much fascinated with European technological advancements and wanted to import them into Ethiopia to improve his people’s standard of living and Ethiopia’s status on the world stage. In the post-Adwa era, Ethiopia experienced an unprecedented level of growth and modernization (however small) under the Emperor. As a newly recognized independent state, many European countries rushed to establish embassies in Addis Ababa. France was a pioneer but was soon followed by Italy, Germany, Russia and Great Britain. Shortly after, many modern devices such as telephones, cars, sewing machines, and so on were introduced in the country. One of his most ambitious efforts was to build a railway line that connects Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti via Dire Dawa, and in collaboration with the French government, the rail road was finally commissioned in 1897. 
However, the Emperor’s attempts to modernize the country were not universally accepted. Especially conservative clergy deemed these electrical and mechanical gadgets as works of the devil, and therefore strongly opposed the change that was sweeping through the nation. One such improvement that was sweeping through Addis Ababa was the installment of electricity and running water. Thanks to the Emperor, the first bank called Bank of Abyssinia was opened in 1904. Followed by the first every primary school and hospital in 1908 and 1910, respectively. In short, Emperor Menelik II and his strong desire for progress launched a new era in Ethiopian history, an era of rapid modernization#.




             Emperor Menelik II’s rise to power was very challenging to say the least. However, first as Negus of Shewa then as Neguse Negast of Ethiopia, Menelik has shown how much he cares about his followers/ countrymen, and conversely how much he is loved by his people. He always thinks about what is best for his people and his country as a whole when he decrees a law or takes action. In addition to that, Emperor Menelik II’s excellent leadership skills have allowed him to ensure the safety of his people and protect their freedom from foreign or domestic enemies. He also attempted to bring modernization and progress in Ethiopia. He is constantly mindful of the problems his people face- be it famine, foreign threat, revolts or underdevelopment and tries to find solutions. His patriotism and leadership qualities combined with his unparalleled ambition have earned him a spot amongst one of the great leaders in history. Not to mention, a sacred spot in the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians in particular and the whole of the black community in general.


A. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War


          This particular case study examines The Art of War which includes crucial instructions on how to conduct war. Although, the identity of the author of the book is still unclear, this book has proved to be extremely valuable and have been ubiquitously utilized by many leaders from different backgrounds in different time periods. The background story revolves around a war that takes place between two warring but unequal states, and techniques employed by the smaller state in building a disciplined and cohesive army to counter a much larger enemy force. A compulsory reading in the American military, The Art of War talks about the importance of disciple, flexibility, deception, knowledge of the terrain and the benefits of conducting a short war. The Art of War of emphasizes on the importance of war to the survival of the state. #
           Interestingly, many of Emperor Menelik II’s military expeditions seem to correlate with the principles stated in The Art of War. One incident that stands out is his campaign against the invading Italian force in the first Ethio-Italian war, particularly, the battle of Adwa. Sun Tzu says know your terrain and use it to your advantage – that is exactly what Emperor Menelik II did when he firstly ordered his troops to position themselves on the hills overlooking the Adwa valley in which the confused and disorganized Italian army resided. Second, Emperor Menelik II instructed his men to drive the remaining Italian brigade into a narrow valley, hence reducing their mobility and blocking their escape route for his approaching cavalry. 
          Less aggressive yet crucial military tactics that Emperor Menelik II used in the battle of Adwa was espionage and the art of deception. As mentioned earlier, the emperor used one of his spies to lure his enemy into a trap, an ambush. The Italian general failed to look through the deception and ordered his troops to advance- a critical error that claimed the lives of thousands of Italian soldiers and brought their ultimate defeat. Like Sun Tzu, Emperor Menelik realized that winning this war was an imperative and is the only way he can guarantee the survival of his state.


B. Seizing the Moment: Themistocles of Athens


        This case study examines a historical event that transpired in the 5th century B.C. 5th century Greece is not one unified nation but a conglomerate of separate and autonomous city states while the Persian Empire was an enormous state stretching from Afghanistan to Turkey, and a force to be reckoned with. Eventually, a war breaks out between Greece and the Persian Empire when a previously botched alliance goes bad. The Greeks initially were able to defeat a small Persian army contingent at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC. While many unsuspecting Athenians continued to celebrate their victory, the Persian King Xerxes vowed to avenge his father. Only Themistocles, an Athenian politician and a war general, warned of a second Persian attack. 
             Just like Themistocles had said the Persians returned and this time with a bigger infantry and navy. Through a series of trickeries before the war, Themistocles had convinced the Athenians to build many light and agile ships to strengthen Athens’ navy to match that of Persia’s. Then by joining forces with other city states such as the Sparta under Eurybiades, Themistocles tired to stop the advancing Persian army but failed. With shear courage, determination and his power of foresight, Themistocles was then able to lead the Athenians out of Athens and onto an adjacent island called Salamis. Strategically positioned on the island of Salamis, Themistocles once again uses spies and deception to lure the Persian navy into a narrow strait where their numbers don’t matter and their bulky size hinders them. Finally, Themistocles wins a decisive naval battle and Greece ultimately defeats a formidable enemy#. 
            Emperor Menelik II shows many similar qualities to that of Themistocles. For instance, Themistocles is known to have surrendered his own command to Eurybiades of Sparta in hopes of avoiding tension and disunity amongst the city states. He was able to look beyond the short term rewards and inconveniences to achieve the long term goal/ primary objective which can only be happen if the city states are fighting Persian and not each other. Likewise, Emperor Menelik also surrendered his claims to the imperial throne upon hearing that a much stronger rival named Neguse Negest yehonnes, who has British support, was crowned emperor. Through the power of his foresight, Menelik II understood that creating unnecessary tension might jeopardize the fragile peace that after the Zemene Mesafint.


C. Chief Joseph


            In this particular case study the story of an Indian tribe called the Nez-Percés is examined. The Nez-Percés native Americans who have lived peacefully on their land in North American for thousands of years. Then in the 1800s, European and American settlers started to move into their lands. Finally the settlers stole the land and told the Nez-Percés to move into an Indian reservation. To make matters worse, gold was discovered on the land and the Nez-Percés were told to completely move to the reservation within 30 days. As a result battles were fought and lives were lost. But in order to prevent any more bloodshed, Chief Joseph surrendered. Upon his surrender, he was promised his people would return to their land, but instead they were taken by rail to Indian territory in Oklahoma. But Chief Joseph did not stop there. He then went to Washington, D.C. to plead the case of his people in the United States Congress and sought justice be done for his people. Chief Joseph died in 1904 while in exile from his homeland. 
            There are many similarities between Emperor Menelik and Chief Joseph. Firstly, they are both concerned about their people’s safety, security and well-being. Notably, Emperor Menelik is known to have taken measures to help his starving people during the 1888-1892 famine. He was merciful enough to give tax-exemption and debt relief for the hardest hit areas in the north, hence they called him ‘beloved mother Menelik’. The second similarity lies in their use of a military tactics called strategic retreat. Chief Joseph chose to surrender or strategically retreat from battle in order to prevent more bloodshed. In many ways, Emperor Menelik’s reluctance to further push into Eritrea right after the victory at the battle of Adwa could be seen as a strategic retreat. He knew the risks would outweigh the benefits. He knew he would lose more men. He knew the ‘small colonial war might escalate into a big nationalistic crusade’ #. So why take the risk?


D. King David


            This case study is about King David, the second king of the kingdom of Israel. King David is very important to not only the Judeo-Christian culture but to the Islamic culture as well. He is a ruler who was anointed by God and was responsible for uniting the 12 Hebrew tribes. In addition to that, King David is credited for capturing Jerusalem and establishing a centralized form of government with Jerusalem as its capital. He also brought the Ark of the Convenant to Jerusalem, making it one of the holiest cities for Judaism, Christianity and Islam#. 
Just as King David united the 12 Hebrew tribes to establish a central government, King Menelik II also led military campaigns to consolidate weaker states into his empire and form one strong central government in his newly established capital city, Addis Ababa. In addition to that, the Emperor, similar to King David ruling over the 12 tribes, had to be smart to be able to manage a very diverse and multi-ethnic nation like Ethiopia.




              In conclusion, Emperor Menelik II is a great leader with multiple good qualities. In fact, Emperor Menelik II possesses the leadership skills that were mentioned in Ronald Heifetz’s book titled, Leadership without easy answers. For instance, time and again, history shows us that Emperor Menelik II mastered the technique of ‘Modulating the Distress’#. This concept refers to a leader’s ability to keep his followers between ‘the boiling and freezing point’. To do that, one has to maintain an optimum level of tension within the society. If, however, the tension is too much, the followers will revolt and if the tension is too little, the followers will not be responsive to the leader’s requests. Going back to the Emperor, Menelik II made sure that he did his absolute best to feed his starving people and he also tried to introduce technology and modern institution such as banks, schools and hospitals to improve the people’s standard of living. Conversely, he also set out military campaign to punish vassal states who have decided to revolt against him, creating some stress. 
             Furthermore, one can also say that the Emperor’s character would perfectly fit with Heifetz concept of ‘leadership on the razor’s edge’. Basically, Heifetz says a leader’s caliber is measure partly by his ability to make a decisive choice under extreme pressure. Once again, this concept also applies to Emperor Menelik II because the decision to nullify a treaty with a powerful European nation like Italy and take a whole country to war, is not one that should be taken lightly. But Emperor Menelik II not only did he boldly go to war with a technologically advanced nation but managed to return home victorious. In line with Heifetz’s theory, another important quality a great leader should is his ability to adapt and be flexible. To exemplify, when Emperor Menelik II found out about the impending Italian invasion, he quickly changed his tactics and reached out to Russia and France for support-- in a sense, pitting one colonial power against another to his advantage ( in the case of France and Italy). 
All in all, Emperor Menelik II is an excellent leader, a revered national hero and one of the most powerful black men in history. He has done so much for his country, and therefore we [Ethiopians] will forever be indebted to him.




Chief Joseph "an Indian's View of Indian Affairs": Teaching Notes. Oneonta, NY: Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute, 1993. Print. 
Haifetz, Ronald. Leadership without easy answers. Cambridge, Mass, BelknapPress of Harvard university Press.
King David: Teaching Notes. Oneonta, NY: Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute, 1994. Print.
Marcus, Menelik II, p. 55
Prouty, Empress Taytu and Menilek II .Trenton: The Red Sea Press, 1986, p. 155.


Rubenson, Sven. King of Kings: Tewodros of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie I University.1966


Seizing the Moment: Themistocles of Athens: Teaching Notes. Oneonta, NY: Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute, 1993. Print. 
Sun Tzu's the Art of War: Teaching Notes. Oneonta, NY: Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute, 1994. Print.
The American promoter in Abyssinia’ TIn World’s Work, Vol. 7, March 1904., p. 4602.
von Uhlig, Siegbert, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C .Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003. p. 108
Wallechinsky, David, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace. "The People's Almanac's 15 Favorite Oddities of All Time." The People's Almanac Presents the Book of Lists. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1977. 463-467
Zewde, Bahru. A history of Ethiopia: 1855-1991. 2nd ed. Eastern African studies. 2001






DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.