Power and Leadership as Exemplified Term Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Leadership
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #59992679

Excerpt from Term Paper :

The fact that Lysistrata's "came to power" by virtue of her own leadership abilities which were recognized and celebrated by their peers rather than having them thrust upon her from above is pointed out by Ober (1989), who reports, "The Athenians' demonstrated concern with native intelligence, their distrust of elite education, and their respect for the authority of the elders are parodied by Aristophanes, who mimics rhetorical topoi in the speech of Lysistrata, the female demagogue:

Listen to my words

I am a woman, but I'm smart enough

Indeed, my mind's not bad at all.

Having listened to my father's discourses

And those of the older men, I'm not ill educated. (Lysistrata 1123-27 quoted in Ober at 182)

Indeed, Lysistrata's leadership qualities were clearly demonstrated in her ability to organize the women of Athens to show the warring men of the city just who in fact had "the power" suggests that leadership is not restricted to men, but rather was recognized early on as being a quality that is worthy of being recognized by placing such individuals in leadership positions.

Real and Symbolic Responsibilities of Leaders.

Historically, effective leaders have been required to demonstrate the ability to delegate their power when necessary, and just such an example of delegation of authority is found in Genesis 2:19-20 where it states that an apparently busy God turned to Adam for some management assistance in assigning nomenclatures to the new product lines: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field...." Other responsibilities of leaders include "knowing when to fold 'em" is in the best interests of the people, just as many observers are suggesting that the United States do today in Iraq by simply declaring victory and bringing the troops home. In this regard, the Greek men may have had the power to wage war, but Lysistrata and her like-minded female counterparts were able to clearly demonstrate who possessed the real power in Athenian society by exercising in a fashion that was for the good of all.

Such positive outcomes are not always associated with leaders, of course, but it would be reasonable to posit that one of the real responsibilities of leaders is to ensure the welfare and safety of those they lead, and this assessment is borne out time and again in Genesis (as heavily influenced by the Epic of Gilgamesh). More symbolic responsibilities of these early leaders including providing a heroic role model and inspiring their followers to endure the hardships that always seem to go hand in hand with achieving great deeds. For instance, according to Simonton (1994), "One of the oldest archetypes in human culture is that of the hero. The hero clashes with the Fates at tremendous personal risk. This archetype is richly portrayed in the mythology of ancient Greece. Other cultural traditions depict the same basic ideal, whether Gilgamesh of the Sumerians, Samson of the Hebrews, Siegfried of the Germanic peoples, or Ilya Muromets of the Russians" (255). As such, these characters have influenced what people can expect from truly great leaders in terms of their real and symbolic responsibilities. For instance, the Epic of Gilgamesh records the events of a real but not necessarily typical human who manages to persevere in spite of everything that life can throw at him, but only with the assistance of the god of wisdom. According to Jager (2001), "The myth is built around a mysterious word of guidance and compassion that the god of wisdom whispers in the ear of his faithful human servant. This word not only saves the servant's life but inaugurates an unending conversation between heaven and earth that opens a truly human world to him" (131). This achievement, Jager suggests, not only saves King Gilgamesh's life, but also provides him with the wisdom he needed to be a better leader of his people (131).

Responsibilities of the Citizenry in Choosing Leaders and Holding Them Accountable for Their Actions.

Leaders cannot lead without followers, of course, and history has shown time and again that people are willing to subjugate a great deal in order to ensure an orderly society; however, the historical record is also full of accounts of how people react when their leaders cross an indefinable but universally recognized line. God held mankind fully accountable for their actions in the Garden of Eden (even though presumably he knew in advance what was going to happen) and the men of Athens were held fully accountable for their warring by their wives. Truly great leaders are the first to step forward and accept the responsibility for their actions, though, notwithstanding any resulting consequences, and the actions of the some of the very first leaders described in Genesis make this clear: Eve readily admitted what she had done and why, as did Adam when confronted by God. Such acceptable of responsibility, though, does not absolve leaders of being held accountable for their actions (as the consequences of the original sin prove), but it is part and parcel of the leadership role. Likewise, as Abusch (2001) points out, the Gilgamesh Epic "draws together the many strands that make up the identity of Gilgamesh: man, hero, king, god. Gilgamesh must learn to live. He must find ways to express his tremendous personal energy but still act in a manner that accords with the limits and responsibilities imposed upon him by his society and universe" (614).

Types of Recourses Available to Citizens to Use against Tyranny.

One straightforward approach to revolting against tyranny is to defy the commands of the perceived tyrant and this, of course, is the path chosen by Adam and Eve with earth-changing results. While all such revolts and revolutions are not earth-changing in nature, the demonstration of just who was boss and who possessed the real power in Athenian society was made clear by Lysistrata and her like-minded counterparts. Tyranny, though, assumes a totalitarian state of affairs wherein active revolt is almost guaranteed to get one killed or at least imprisoned - in antiquity as today. Because a society's leaders are responsible for ensuring the safety and welfare of all of its citizens, there are naturally going to be some elements of any given population who feel disenfranchised and will likely perceive any leader who disagrees with them as "tyrannical." These individuals have historically resorted to violent means to violent ends with mixed results, but the accounts recorded in Genesis (as heavily influenced by the Epic of Gilgamesh), suggest that those who take on divinely inspired leaders do so at their peril, but mere mortals can be overthrown or at least thwarted by effectively organized members of a society as Lysistrata so clearly demonstrated.

Impact of These Trends on the Modern Understanding of Leadership.

The influence on modern perspectives of power and leadership are made clear when the issue of action is taken into account. Power, like faith, is dead without works, and modern leaders recognize that power without action is not going to improve their bottom line, nor is it going to keep their companies competitive in an increasingly competitive and globalized marketplace. Because the episodes described in Genesis, as heavily influenced by the Epic of Gilgamesh, form an integral part of the way people in the West think about things, it is little wonder that effective leaders today recognize that action means taking a vision through to fruition and they are going to need help to accomplish these lofty goals. In Genesis, God had Adam, Abraham, Moses and an entire cadre of powerful biblical leaders available to effectuate his plans for mankind; Lysistrata had the power of the Athenian women behind her to help her accomplish her organizational goals. These lessons have not been lost on modern management experts.

Indeed, it is probably not too far-fetched to assume that to many of Microsoft's senior vice presidents, Bill Gates IS God and his will be done. In this regard, Bill clearly has the power, but like the patriarchs described in Genesis (as heavily influenced by the Epic of Gilgamesh), Bill has become far more than a leader today based on his ability to simply buy problems in order to solve them. Nevertheless, Microsoft and every other successful organization today share a common feature in possessing the requisite leadership needed to guide them through these difficult times, just as the leaders in the ancient texts discussed above possessed "the right stuff" at the right time in history. Savvy leaders today will recognize that people can be motivated to accomplish far more than even they expected by appreciating that people will only take so much before they…

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