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Wednesday, May 23, 2012


As a student, I attended a lecture once in which the speaker attempted to use Agamemnon as an example of bad military leadership, and compared him to the US military leaders during the Vietnam War. I had read the Iliad, but had difficulty understanding his criticisms. Re-reading the Iliad for this project, the poor quality of Agamemnon's leadership is one of the very first and strongest things that strikes me. From the very beginning he is so greedy and stubborn. He won't budge an inch with Chrysis. Why can't he see that they must give her up? What was so special about that woman? So often, I've seen modern day leaders become attached to something that they need to let go of to increase their productivity/success. It also strikes me that Agamemnon is a classic example of a poorly formed ego with little self-esteem. He needs everyone to recognize his authority and to give him respect, safety, wealth, victory. But these are all things he thinks are due to him, rather than things he needs to go out and earn (note: fixed mindset).

There is another leader who also demonstrates some poor leadership qualities in the early part of the Iliad, Zeus, the king of the gods. In Book I, lines 650-653, where hear a criticism by Hera of Zeus: "Always your pleasure, whenever my back is turned, to settle things in your grand clandestine way. You never deign, do you, freely and frankly to share your plots with me-never, not a word!" Secrecy leads to disaster. Good leadership is always open and honest. A good leader has integrity and has nothing to hide. Zeus is hiding his scheming with Thetis, because he knows it will upset others, and instead of saying, "I'm the king of the gods, I have decided that it will be thus, and you can all just deal with it", he tries to hide his decision and the other gods resent him even more for that. I am reminded here of the sex scandals with Bill Clinton. While many people believed that what he did sexually was morally wrong, what really upset people, and ultimately what got Clinton into trouble with Congress was that he tried to hide it, that he lied about it instead of coming clean. Another famous leader had something to say about this as well: "The truth will set you free."

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