Thursday, September 08, 2005

Homeric Leadership

Last summer vacation, I read the Odyssey, in Robert Fagles' excellent translation. This summer I read his translation of the Iliad.

In both books, there are parallel struggles between men and gods to master the course of events. We can see examples of both positional leadership strategies (taking a fixed position on some issue, and devoting one's energies to maintaining this position) and relational leadership strategies (trying to achieve desired outcomes by flexible interaction and manoeuvre).


Achilles - angry with Agammemnon - seeks to prevent the Greeks from winning the war against Troy without Achilles
Poseidon - angry with Odysseus - seeks to prevent Odysseus from reaching home safely
Achilles and Poseidon assume structural symmetry between challenge and response - an environment in which simple strength always prevails.
Zeus - manoeuvres between the conflicting interests of various gods to achieve the right balance
Odysseus - establishes friendly relationships with assorted people who help him reach home safely
Zeus and Odysseus exploit structural asymmetries in the environment, to produce favourable outcomes in more complex situations.

Updated: I have inserted the word "structural" to clarify what I mean by symmetry here.

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