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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homer on Heroic Leadership in Business

Can a merchant be a hero?  A manager in the grips of the business-leadership fad, which began in the 1980s, might reply, “yes, of course.” A hero in the corporate context is said to be a “champion,” “servant leader,” “coach,” or “visionary leader.” 
Hero and leader are typically conflated in society, moreover, without any real thought on whether heroes are necessarily leaders. A hero might rescue a damsel in distress without having any followers. It could be countered that Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey is both a hero and a leader on his journey. However, of such a hero-leader, being a merchant would be excluded. Describing the attributes of Homer’s notion of the hero figure is instructive, for while the characteristics seem especially oriented or applicable to merchants, Homer takes pains to exclude the business caste from Odysseus’ heroic leadership.

Odysseus leading his men.  A business likeness?     Source: Maudandoscar.org

Material from this essay has been incorporated into The Essence of Leadership: A Cross-Cultural Foundation, which is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.