Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun


By Wess Roberts

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Explains how the legendary military commander’s principles of leadership can be applied to contemporary business situations in the ’90s.


Copyright © 1985, 1987 by Wess Roberts

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Warner Books

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com.

First eBook Edition: February 1990

The "Warner Books" name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-446-53549-6

Cover design by Jackie Merri Meyer

Cover illustration by Mark Summers



Tom Peters, coauthor of In Search of Excellence

"Powerful and inspiring! Will help you make the most of your leadership potential."

Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D., author of Your Erroneous Zones


William K. Coors, chairman, Adolph Coors Company

"Superb, thought-provoking! Entertaining and easy to read, yet acutely relevant to anyone in a leadership position … packed with many layers of wisdom."

Scott DeGarmo, editor in chief, Success

"One of the most original and inspiring books on leadership I've encountered."

Robert Schuller, author of Tough Times Don't Last but Tough People Do! and The Be-Happy Attitudes

"Don't let the title mislead you! This brilliant leadership masterpiece is relevant, inspirational, laser-accurate and full of win-win wisdom atypical of Attila's image. Easy to read … impossible to forget!"

Denis Waitley, Ph.D., author of The Psychology of Winning and Seeds of Greatness

"During the past several years, I've read dozens of books about surviving in business. Attila has more wisdom than all the others combined. Attila is far more impressive than Iacocca, I promise you."

James B. Patterson, CEO, J. Walter Thompson, Inc.

"Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun is packed with insights about successful leadership. It's a marvelously creative presentation of commonsense guidelines. It ought to be called How to Get a Tough Job Done by Involving the Folks Who Will Do the Job—but that wouldn't be nearly as interesting a title. I highly recommend it."

R.L. Crandall, chairman and president, American Airlines

"This is an all new collection of leadership fables set in an unlikely and fascinating context. No boring stories we've heard a dozen times before! This book is fresh, readable and meaningful to leaders from any tribe or time."

George Koopman, president, American Rocket Company

"Absolutely a classic! Leadership Secrets should be required reading. It incorporates meaningful precepts that apply to leading on athletic fields as well as in business and other settings."

Joe Theismann, former quarterback, Washington Redskins

"Wess Roberts—aided by his good friend Attila—has made the tenets of leadership accessible to anyone who takes the time to explore this fascinating work. Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun is a most refreshing read, as entertaining as it is informative."

Victor Kiam, CEO, Remington Products

"It's a great point of view about another way to show leadership … very, very impressive. I will be using many of the author's ideas in my own work."

Pat Riley, coach, Los Angeles Lakers

"Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun captures elegantly the time-tested principles of leadership. A must reading for today's managers, this book energizes individuals to realize their leadership potential."

Dr. Ram Charan, coauthor of Strategic Management and contributor to the Harvard Business Review

"Having had the good fortune to associate my own book on management with the name of a saint, never would I have imagined Attila could offer such sage and readable advice. … This is recommended reading."

Norman R. Augustine, chairman and CEO, Martin Marietta Corporation, and author of Augustine's Laws

"An unusual approach to presenting solid content … most helpful to anyone who wants to grow and develop effective leadership skills."

Nido R. Qubein, chairman, Creative Services, Inc.

"Attila could well lead any corporation today."

Andrew P. Calhoun, Jr., chairman, The Resource Group

"Worth reading … could be the most popular management book since The One-Minute Manager."

Memphis Business Journal

"Outlines leadership tenets in a compact, whimsical fashion … remarkable … its style makes it light reading and anything but boring."

Military Review

"I have read it a dozen times and every re-reading has given me more insights. I think it is a rare volume that should be read by anyone who has responsibility for a large number of people."

Paul H. Zalecki, vice president, General Motors

"Its tongue-in-cheek humor is well done and makes for inward reflection. It's a unique way to get leadership techniques in readable form."

John C. "Doc" Bahnsen, brigadier general, U.S. Army

"The 'Attilaisms' section at the end of the book is the best summary on leadership that I have ever read. That summary alone is worth many times the price of the book. Every leader and aspiring leader should start every day by reading it."

Michael LeBouef, Ph.D., author of How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life and The Greatest Management Principle in the World

"A book that every American manager should read and take to heart. I can't praise it enough nor Wess Roberts for bringing Attila to life in a fresh light."

Albert Lee, author of Call Me Roger

"An imaginative and colorful approach to relating leadership principles that have long served those having the will to lead."

Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D., coauthor of The One-Minute Manager

Author's Note

Beginning as a vague idea some ten years before it commanded my full attention, Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun occupied my early mornings, late nights and weekends for nearly a year. During that period, there were a number of people who provided the encouragement and support necessary to sustain me. I remain indebted to them.

First, I want to express my appreciation to Cheryl, Justin, Jaime and Jeremy, who are not just my family but friends and confidants who provided enduring sanction and assistance throughout the penning of the manuscript and its subsequent revisions. Justin, though just ten years old when this project began, was especially helpful in conceptualizing the book's metaphoric leader, Attila. Cheryl provided penetrating insight into the behavior of leaders from all walks of life. Jaime and Jeremy gave the project the kind of unreserved support that is found only in the innocence of childhood or the magnanimity of adult maturity.

Aniko Myers and Dave Handley provided some excellent background material on Attila—no small feat, since there isn't an abundance of it. Lee Allen, an accomplished military commander and a former army colleague, acted the role of mentor, seeing that I didn't stray too far from the book's primary theme.

In the autumn of 1984, I made several attempts on my own and through a literary agent in Boston to gain the interest of virtually any publishing house that would agree to print the book. After being rejected by seventeen publishers for seventeen different reasons, many of them conflicting, I was informed by a second literary agent that my work was one he could not represent. I decided, therefore, to have the good people at Publisher's Press in Salt Lake City print the book at my own expense. My intent became one of providing copies, over time, to people who had an interest in a book that was an audacious break from traditional leadership literature.

Concurrent with these events, David Copus, a prominent Washington, D.C., attorney, read the original manuscript and suggested I send a copy to H. Ross Perot. Soon after the limited first printing, I sent Ross a copy with David's compliments. Ross thought enough of the book to call and discuss it with me. His purchase of seven hundred copies of the first edition, which has since been publicly revealed in Albert Lee's book Call Me Roger, inspired me to continue disseminating the book and to also search out possibilities for wider distribution.

Over the course of the next three years, Leadership Secrets found its way into the hands of a few thousand Americans, ranging from the most wealthy and influential to the ordinary man on the street. This was a tremendous experience for Cheryl and me. We hadn't advertised the book or provided any information in either of the first two printings as to how one might purchase additional copies, yet would-be readers continued to track us down. We have enjoyed our conversations and correspondence with them. I hope the book has added some value to their lives and thank them for their patronage and words of encouragement. The time during which we distributed Leadership Secrets out of a small office in our home—working together with Justin, Jaime and Jeremy to take orders and to package and ship them—is one of the cherished periods we have shared as a family.

In May of 1988, the fortunes of Leadership Secrets were dramatically changed by an unexpected plaudit that appeared in the aforementioned Call Me Roger, a book that profiled the mismanagement of one of America's largest corporations, General Motors. Author Albert Lee described the contretemps that developed when GM Chairman Roger Smith prohibited his new business associate, Ross Perot, from distributing five hundred copies of Leadership Secrets at a dinner attended by the managers of GM's new Saturn division. This was news to me. At the time, I had no idea that Albert Lee's complimentary words would eventually bring the book to the attention of a publisher who had faith in its prospects, Warner Books. Thanks, Al!

The first step in the process was Dr. Hendrie Weisinger's suggestion that I send a copy of Leadership Secrets to his literary agent, Richard Pine. A full two months passed before I overcame my fear of yet another rejection and placed a call to Richard. Not surprisingly, he had never heard of my book but said he would take a look at it. Richard, who is a wizard of his trade, placed Leadership Secrets with Warner Books in less than two weeks. If this isn't record time in the publishing world, it is in Cedar City, Utah, my hometown, where events occur at a more leisurely pace.

The people at Warner Books have been an absolute delight to work with. I am especially appreciative of my editor, Rick Horgan, who has energetically added his master's touch in polishing my work. Larry Kirshbaum, Warner's president, has enthusiastically directed the overall activities related to this edition from start to finish. They both are, quite simply, the kind of efficacious people lots of us like to be around.

And finally, it has been my privilege to have had the opportunity to be associated with Larry Wiesen over what is nearing a ten-year period at American Express and now Fireman's Fund. He has given me his confidence, trust, timely and wise counsel, personal example of integrity and the latitude that I might learn and achieve many things that would have otherwise quite possibly remained beyond my grasp.


Rohnert Park, California

August 1988


Attila the Hun is a dubious character upon whom to base a metaphor on leadership. He'been portrayed throughout history as a barbaric, ugly little tyrant whose hordes, in total disregard of accepted principles of conservation, ruthlessly destroyed the beautiful and tranquil countryside, then went on to plunder and pillage numerous cities and villages inhabited by more civilized citizens of European nations.

Void of any characterization as a brilliant leader, a genius civilizer or a compassionate and adept king, the sinister Attila is commonly used as a referent for entertaining satire and serves as a universally agreed upon example of those qualities and attributes dreadfully abhorred in leaders of any generation, organization or cause.

Typically, leadership books are based on the lives and accomplishments of socially acceptable men and women who have reached the pinnacle of achievement in business, athletics, medicine, entertainment, education, religion or the military. Many of these writings prove to be worthwhile study; in them are valuable lessons for our own leadership development.


On Sale
Oct 15, 2007
Page Count
110 pages

Wess Roberts

About the Author

Wess Roberts, Ph.D. is the international best-selling author of Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, Straight A’s Never Made Anybody Rich, and Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun. Dr. Roberts has held senior management positions at major insurance and financial service companies on the West Coast. He served as a major in the U.S. Army where he was assigned for three years to the U.S. Army Combat Arms Training Board. As an adjunct professor at Southern Utah University, Utah State University, and Nova University, Dr. Roberts has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in business, education and psychology. He currently makes his home in Utah, where he writes and lectures on a variety of business and leadership topics.

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