Is Odysseus a Good Leader

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Updated: Sep 17, 2019
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“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others,” said Douglas MacArthur. In The Odyssey by Homer, Odysseus shows these traits and many more during his journey home to Ithaca after fighting in the Trojan War.

Odysseus must brave monsters, Cyclopes, giants and more, but he is devoted to returning home to his wife and son. Though only Odysseus makes it home in the end, he is able to give hope to his crew that they will all return to Ithaca. Many key choices are made during the trip, and Odysseus proves he can make the right ones. Odysseus is truly committed towards making it home to Ithaca, and does whatever he must do to make it home. These characteristics prove Odysseus is a great leader.

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According to Jon Gordon, author of The Difference Between Good and GREAT Leadership, “Great leaders inspire people to believe in themselves.” Even after one, five, and ten years of being at sea, Odysseus keeps his crew optimistic and makes them truly believe all of them will be able to see their home of Ithaca once again. Most people, after seeing their comrades being eaten by Cyclopes, giants, and a six-headed monster, would give up hope and believe their journey was impossible.

However, Odysseus shows true leadership by looking past these setbacks and inspiring his men to keep sailing towards Ithaca. In the story, “Scylla and Charybdis,” six of Odysseus’ men are plucked off their ship and eaten by the monster, Scylla. The men are horrified and are frozen in place, but Odysseus encourages them to keep rowing. Only because of Odysseus’ leadership, the men got out of the strait of Scylla and Charybdis.

Odysseus is not only a great leader at sea, but he is a great leader in Ithaca. When Odysseus is talking to Telemachus in Eumaeus’ hut, Telemachus is doubtful they can overthrow all of the suitors and is unconvinced the gods will help. Odysseus speaks to Telemachus, telling him it is possible and they will succeed. He also says Athena and Zeus will help them. Telemachus is still dubious, but Odysseus’ ingenious plan and his confidence inspire Telemachus to believe what was thought to be impossible was well within their reach, showing what a great leader Odysseus is. Making the right decisions is an essential component of being a great leader.

According to Larina Kase, author of Great Leaders are Great Decision-Makers, “Excellent leaders often say that they go with their gut to make decisions. They are able to trust themselves and their expertise and not get stuck in the cycle of over-thinking.” Odysseus makes many on-the-spot decisions that are essential for his journey home to Ithaca. On the island of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, Odysseus gets stuck in the Cyclops’ cave. Any normal man would have given up as soon as he saw the Cyclops eating his men two-at-a-time, but Odysseus does not. He promptly formulates a brilliant plan to escape the cave.

Odysseus first wounds Polyphemus in the eye, which leads to Polyphemus yelling for help. However, Odysseus tells the Cyclops his name is “Nohbdy,” so the other Cyclopes only hear nothing is wrong. Then, while the blinded Polyphemus is sitting by the wide-open cave entrance, Odysseus ties his men under three sheep each. Polyphemus does not notice the men are coming with the sheep out of the cave, and lets them go. Only a true leader could listen to their intuition and forge a strategy as quickly as Odysseus did. Back in Ithaca, Odysseus remains a quick thinker.

Odysseus must overthrow 108 suitors in order to reclaim his home, but he must not reveal his identity or else the suitors will kill his son and himself. So, Odysseus forms yet another cunning plan. He will enter his home dressed as a beggar so neither the suitors nor his wife will recognize him. Telemachus is to go home as well, but tell no one of Odysseus’ return. He is also to put all the suitors’ weapons in a storage room except for a few for Odysseus and himself. Odysseus will later reveal himself, and kill the suitors who will be caught off guard at his sudden appearance. Because of Odysseus’ quick decisions and ability to go with his intuition, the plan works and Odysseus is reunited with his wife. Without commitment, Odysseus would never have made it home to Ithaca.

According to Stephen Gregg, Chairman and CEO of Ethix Corp, “People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice.” Odysseus certainly sacrifices himself for his crew and his mission. In the story, “The Land of the Dead,” Odysseus makes a trip to Hades to speak with the blind prophet, Tiresias. In Greek culture, Hades is looked upon as a frightening place that no man should want to go to.

Odysseus, on the other hand, takes his entire crew into Hades without a second thought. Another example of Odysseus’ commitment is in the story of the “Sirens.” The Sirens are creatures who lure sailors to their island with sweet singing to eat them. Odysseus knows this, but still chooses to hear their song. Odysseus has his men tie him to the mast of the ship and make sure he cannot try to escape towards the Sirens.

Any man who allows his crew to tie him up on a wooden pole of a ship must be genuinely dedicated. In Ithaca, though Odysseus has not seen his beloved wife for twenty years, he cannot reveal his identity. Instead, he must disguise himself as a beggar in order to make sure the suitors will not kill his son and him. This shows Odysseus’ dedication to keep following his plans and be a good leader for Telemachus, even when seeing his wife tempts him. Odysseus then passes his wife’s tests and kills all the suitors.

Once he and Telemachus are safe, Odysseus can finally reveal himself to his beloved wife. This shows the personal sacrifice Odysseus makes, proving he is a great leader. According to many experts, true great leadership is found in those who are inspirational, make good decisions, and are committed.

Odysseus inspires his crew and his son at critical points in time, allowing for his ultimate success. When Odysseus encounters roadblocks and tough decisions, he has proved he can find a way around the barriers and make the proper choices. Commitment is not even a question for Odysseus; he has shown time and time again he will do whatever is needed to succeed. Without a doubt, Odysseus has shown himself to be a great leader.

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Is Odysseus a Good Leader. (2019, Sep 17). Retrieved from