leadership illustration with colorful boats

In the Upper Napa Valley, there is a castle. It sits in the midst of one of California’s oldest vineyards, surrounded by lush trees, a stream, and a lake. If you were to wake up anywhere on the grounds, you would think you’d been transported to thirteenth century Italy. And that’s exactly what Dario Sattui, the creator of this castle in the Upper Napa Valley, wants you to feel when you visit his Castello di Amorosa—translated, labor of love.

Dario Sattui is a fourth-generation Italian American vintner, obsessed with medieval architecture. He was determined that his Castello di Amorosa would be perfectly authentic. The castle was made with nearly one million thirteenth-century stones shipped to California from Italy, and he only allowed ancient building techniques to be used to build the structure. Sattui filled over 200 shipping containers with antique furnishings from Europe to fill the rooms of his castle. He even transported medieval torture equipment for the dungeon. Sattui explains on his website, “In my mind, everything had to be authentic, or it wouldn’t be worth the effort. Faking it in any way might be all right for others, but I would know the difference, making it a failed attempt to explore my passion.”

We have visited the Castello di Amorosa several times for wine tastings, and it is an epic experience. The level of detail Sattui pursued to achieve his dream of perfect authenticity is jaw-dropping. He even hired painters and muralists to replicate well-known pieces of art from ancient Italy in each of the rooms. During one visit, we purchased a wine tasting, which included a tour of the castle. We sipped the wine that had been poured for us out of barrels and took it all in.

In the castle’s enormous Great Hall, our attention was arrested by a three-paneled mural called The Allegory and Effects of Good Government. Our tour guide explained that Sattui had the mural replicated from its original six-paneled work The Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

Apparently, the artist had been originally hired by the town council of Siena to paint a mural in the Council Room that would remind them of their responsibility of leadership. Our tour guide didn’t say much more, but he’d said enough. Our interest was piqued. When we got home, we dug a little deeper and learned more.

Lorenzetti’s mural is one of the most powerful illustrations of leadership we’ve ever seen. The first three panels—the ones we’d seen in the castle—feature The Allegory of Good Government, where different figures represent different ideas. The chief figure in the first panel of this mural is Justice. She fairly administers both punishments and rewards to people while she looks above her, to the figure of Wisdom. Below Justice sits Harmony, who stands at the head of a line of the people of Siena, who are orderly and protected. Above them sits the largest figure—the Ruler of the realm. He’s surrounded by personified virtues: Fortitude, Prudence, Magnanimity, Temperance, and so on.

Peace sits at the end of the bench of this row of virtues. She’s reclining—kicking back, looking completely casual. Her cushion sits on top of a pile of armor. It’s there for her to use, but she doesn’t need it. The implication is that with so many other virtues and elements of good leadership in place, Peace can take off her armor and actually be peaceful. This is the picture of Good Government: justice is administered with wisdom, harmony is in place, rulers are ruled by virtue, and there is peace.

The second and third panels show the results of Good Government.

People are shown dancing on the city walls of Siena in rich clothing, indicating there is prosperity and joy. There’s commerce and safety; windows are open, and everything is pristine, clean, and cared for. Beyond the city walls, there are scenes of thriving agriculture. People are tilling the land, and there are large herds and abundant produce. That’s the yield of Good Government.

We were able to view those first three panels in the Castello di Amorosa, but when we looked up the second set of panels after- wards, we learned about the Allegory of Bad Government. In the first of those three panels, the largest figure is Tyranny, and he’s surrounded by vices, instead of virtues—figures like Avarice, Cruelty, Pride, Fury, and Fraud. Justice is shown bound up at the base of the fresco, like she’s been overtaken by Tyranny, and the architecture surrounding the figures shows that they are in the midst of war.

The panels showing the results of Bad Government display the results of tyrannical leadership. The city walls have holes in them, and windows are broken. The streets are dirty, people are cowering—there’s no dancing. Out in the country, the fields are burned and houses are on fire. Everyone is fleeing. There’s an incredible sense of fear and trouble—everything is wrong. In fact, the word “Terror” is written at the top of the landscape. Nothing is safe, and there’s nowhere to run.

The murals give vivid imagery of the power of leadership to shape people’s lives. Leaders are responsible for the experience of all the people below them; they have the power to lead people into terror and war—or thriving prosperity.

If leaders understood what could result from their leadership style and set out to create a prosperous entity with “benevolent rule,” they could create a stunning legacy. But if they rule like a tyrant, motivating their people with fear and threats, they’ll leave destruction in their wake.


Granted, there have been many tyrants throughout history who were able to accomplish incredible “success”—Napoleon, the Roman Caesars, Genghis Khan—but what surrounded them? They left a trail of destruction. There are also plenty of publicly traded companies that have been led by leaders who could arguably be described as unethical if not tyrannical: they’re successful, and their companies are successful, but their employees are miserable.

What do we make of this? Do evil people thrive and virtuous people suffer? If we want to be prosperous—do we have to act like tyrants? Can good leadership actually lead to the thriving, happy prosperous pictures shown in the Allegory of Good Government? Can leaders enable their employees to experience both Passion & Provision in their work? Or can large profits only be accomplished off the bent backs of employees?

The “tyrant” leaders who have found success have often done so through fear-based techniques. As a result, many of them end up being ousted for corruption or other scandals; many have imploded their marriages. There are countless unhappy stories from employees at some of these companies. In our opinion, the manipulative leadership method may work for a time—think of it like lightning in a bottle—but it can’t endure, and it will ultimately be corrosive.

Consider what kind of leader you want to be. Imagine yourself nearing retirement and reflecting back on your leadership. How would you want to answer these questions?

•           Over the course of my career, have I grown in kindness?

•           Are my relationships intact?

•           Has my marriage grown in health and love over the course of my career?

•           Are my relationships with my children strong?

•           Have I been able to inspire my employees to do great work?

•           Have I been able to maintain decent health?

Do you want to answer yes to most of these questions? Of course you do.

Still, it’s almost easier to think of business leaders who went the opposite direction—who divorced, who dealt with major health issues or psychological struggles, who became estranged from their loved ones, and who left embittered employees in their wake. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we talk about leaders finishing well, we’re talking about a “both/and” scenario. Here’s the goal: you will build a profit- able business and will take care of your family and employees financially. You will also leave a meaningful legacy in your community and hold intact your health, your marriage, and your relationship with family and friends. That’s the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” when it comes to leadership.

You can still be a “successful” leader and ignore relationships. You can accomplish the tactical strategies that are needed to lead a group of people, even if you manipulate people to achieve your end goal.

However, we want to suggest that the true measurement of success isn’t just about your business—it’s about your humanity. It isn’t just about the doing; it’s about the being. We want to help you be a leader that inspires others. We want you to be healthy, both physically and emotionally. We want you to be a loving, present member of your family. In other words, we want you to experience Passion & Provision in life.