Odysseus as a Good Leader: Essay

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Everyone’s life is an exploration of investigating relationships and loyalty. Loyalty can be shown through devotion, dependency, or honesty to other individuals or things. Everyone is loyal to something, whether it be their religion, significant other, political views, or a leader. Inscribed in Matthew 6:24 it is written, “No one can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other”. This precisely describes one’s loyalty to a figure or individual who is recognized as a leader or role model. It is through the prism of loyalty illustrated in ‘The Odyssey’ through its main character, Odysseus, that I am going to prove that he can still be considered a good leader. During his journey, Odysseus must overcome his anger for distinct individuals and control valuable communication with his crew to gain loyalty from his crew. During his expedition home, he must show his gratitude towards others and grasp knowledge from his mistakes to gain loyalty from his crew. Throughout the story, Odysseus shows arrogance towards others which results in unstable relationships. He often does not inform his crew of important information, an example being the bag of wind, and often conducts immature actions that demean his role of being a heroic leader. But, to gain his shipmates' loyalty, Odysseus demonstrates determination towards his crew’s arrival home, even when wanting to give up, he uses his resources and cleverness to keep his crew alive when in danger and shows his bravery when his crew requires a leader like himself.

During the journey to their success, Odysseus and his crew were dependent on each other. Both show compassion towards each other’s safety and demand to protect one another. One case is when they must pass through the sirens. These sirens conduct beautiful music that lures listeners to their death. In protection of his crew, Odysseus uses his sword to slice an ample of beeswax and continues to knead it with his hands until it becomes soft. Homer explains Odysseus’ heroic act to the readers by saying: “I stopped by the ears of my comrades one by one” (12. 193). Odysseus’ compassion for keeping his crew free from harm is shown when he uses beeswax to plug his crew’s ears. If it was not for Odysseus’ brilliance leading to the act which would save his crew’s lives, Odysseus and his crew would never have arrived home. This act shows how Odysseus not only uses the absorption of his surroundings to help his crew survive but is always looking out for his crew at all moments.

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Also, Odysseus, as a good leader, conducts ideas and plans with his crew to survive or escape obstacles they intervene with. As Odysseus and his crew progress on their journey home, they explore a newly found land which they arrived on. As they investigate the island, they come across a cave with an abundance of cheese and wine, along with lambs, laid aside. Although the crew understands that they are not theirs, they welcome themselves to these ‘gifts’, thus resulting in an inadequate relationship with the cave owner, Polyphemus. The epic poem shows the tension felt between the crew and Polyphemus quoting: “‘Stranger’, he grumbled back from his brutal heart,/ ‘you must be a food, stranger, or come from nowhere,/ telling me to fear the gods or avoid their wrath!/ We Cyclops never blink at Zeus and Zeus’s shield/ of storm and thunder, or any other blessed god/- we’ve got more force by far’” (9. 306-311). As Polyphemus’ anger starts to worsen and he threatens to eat all of Odysseus’ men, Odysseus makes a plan to get him drunk and wait until he falls asleep. After Polyphemus is asleep, then the crew will stab him in the eye, leaving a broad time for the crew to escape safely. It is through this plan that the crew can survive the Cyclops. If Odysseus was not to conduct the idea of harming the Cyclops, several crewmates or his entire crew could have died. It takes a good leader, like himself, to not only assemble a plan but to execute it so rapidly. All must say, Odysseus’ wittiness and solicitude for his crew lead to their survival in a battle fought with Polyphemus, a man who was larger than any. Adding to Odysseus’ ideas and plans and the use of resources around him, Odysseus will save his men even if able to move forward without them.

In the epic poem, Odysseus must save his crew from the lotus-eaters. The lotus-eaters are perceived as innocent and unharmful, yet offer Odysseus and crew members lotus. Homer describes the effects of the lotus stating: “Any crewmen who ate the lotus, the honey-sweet fruit,/ lost all desire to send a message back, much less return,/ their only wish to linger there with the Lotus-eaters,/ grazing on lotus, all memory of the journey home/ dissolved forever” (9. 106-110). After Odysseus and his crew share the passion to arrive home, for the first time, it is just Odysseus who wants to continue their journey. Although his crew may urge him to stay on the island with them, Odysseus knows the importance they felt for arriving home. Therefore, Odysseus proceeds to capture his crew and return them to the ship. The epic poem describes Odysseus rescuing his crew announcing: “But I brought them back, back/ to the hollow ships, and streaming tears-I forced them,/ hauled them under the rowing benches, lashed them fast/ and shouted out commands to my other, steady comrades:/ ‘Quick, no time to lose, embark in the racing ships!’/- so none could eat the lotus, forget the voyage home” (9. 110-117). Odysseus could have left his crew members behind and continued his journey with those crewmates who remained. But instead, like a true leader, he took action to reunite his entire crew safely and hope for an arrival home for all.

As the story carries on, Odysseus shows his fondness for his crew and how he will stop at no end to maintain his crew’s safety. This is shown through the ideas and plans he enforces his use of components supplied around him and his refusal to leave a man behind. In addition to Odysseus using his cleverness to keep his crew alive, he demonstrates determination towards their arrival. When Odysseus is overpowered by frustration, he reconstructs it into motivation for his crew and himself. In particular, when Ithaca is in sight, greed overcomes Odysseus’ crew as they inspect the bag of wind Odysseus’ was given. Unknown to the truth, the crew concludes that there is gold inside the bag, and Odysseus does not plan on sharing it. The epic poem says: “Hurry, let’s see what loot is in the sack, /how much gold and silver, Break it open-now!” (10. 49-50). As the crew proceeds to open the bag, a gust of wind is released, pushing them back to the beginning of their journey. Instead of Odysseus exhibiting hatred towards his crew, he uses his determination and perseverance to guide his crew home. Odysseus learns to accept the long journey that lies ahead and uses it as an excuse to work harder and faster.

Additionally, Odysseus deserves loyalty due to his abrupt and agile decision-making, impacting his crew’s arrival home. Further, into the epic poem, it explains how Odysseus confronts Circe asking for advice on his crew’s journey home. Circe informs him of the challenges he will face, one specifically being Scylla. She notifies him of the choice he must make, losing all of his men or sacrificing 6 to the monster of the sea, Scylla. Odysseus reaches Scylla, the epic poem explains his decision stating: “But now, fearing death, all eyes fixed on Charybdis-/ now Scylla snatched six men from our hollow ship” (12. 264-265). Although the poem focuses on Odysseus and his journey home, both Odysseus and his crew share the priority of arriving home and seeing their family. Therefore, Odysseus respects both wishes and makes the wise choice allowing his crew to continue to embark on their journey home.

Also, throughout the story, Odysseus shows gratitude towards his peers in the mind of avoiding potential enemies. It is often thought that Odysseus’ determination for his arrival home may not be truthful all the time. Some may think so because Odysseus tells Alcinous, “If you would urge me now to stay here one whole year/then speed me home weighed down with lordly gifts,/ I’d gladly have it so” (11. 404-407). This often positions readers into thinking that Odysseus’ longing for home is not as strong as he reveals, as he gladly states that he would spend another year and then arrive home to his family and reclaim his kingdom. Despite the willingness in Odysseus’ voice as he states his acceptance of blissfully staying at Alcinous’ island another year if offered, Odysseus must show gratitude towards individuals he meets along his journey to keep favorable relationships. Odysseus’ stable relationships with others, provide him protection from enemies when in need and individuals to supply advice and resources. Therefore, as a good leader, Odysseus deserves loyalty from his crew because he shows determination for his crew’s arrival home by showing gratitude generating secure relationships, completing impactful decisions in the thought of his crew, and transforming his frustration into motivation.

As Odysseus perceives this epic hero, he is known as he must show his bravery even if being forced. Odysseus will harm others resulting in his crew and himself being unharmed. Many times throughout the story, Odysseus’ crew is put at risk. Odysseus being the leader must escape all enemies or dangerous events, even if that means wounding the source of the threat. For instance, the epic poem says: “So we seized our stake with its fiery tip/ and bored it round and round in the giant’s eye/ till blood came boiling up around that smoking shaft/ and the hot blast singed his brow and eyelids round the core/ and the broiling eyeball burst” (9. 433-437). As shown, when Odysseus’ crew was harmed by the Cyclops, they came together and planned revenge knowing it would result in an opportunity to escape. It was through Odysseus’ bravery that the crew was able to survive the Cyclops and continue their journey home. If one were to have a leader who lacked bravery, it would have been harder for a crew to survive an obstacle like this.

As the story progresses, Odysseus learns from his mistakes brought upon his crew and changes his actions. Some might say Odysseus’ bravery was challenged when Circe transforms his crew into swine and decides to leave his crew behind and continue his journey home. Although this may be true, Odysseus embraces the knowledge from his mistake and returns to his crew members shortly after. As the epic poem expresses Odysseus leaving the island: “I must be off. Necessity drives me on./ Leaving the ship and shore, I headed inland,/ clambering up through hushed, entrancing glades” (10. 300-310). It was moments after that Odysseus realized the importance of his loyalty to his crew and proceeded to return and save them from their inhuman bodies. Even though Odysseus made the mistake of leaving his crew behind, nevertheless he returned to his crew and had them transformed back to their original presence. Odysseus decides to set aside his loyalty to his wife and sleep with Circe in return for his crew’s freedom of both her power and their inhuman bodies.

Not only does Odysseus put his loyalty to his crew before others, but puts his crew’s survival before himself. As stated previously, after Odysseus and his crew are found feasting on Polyphemus’ food and tensions rise between each other, Odysseus must find a way out of the cave before any deaths occur. Odysseus proceeds to inflict the eye on the Cyclops, knowing it will damage his eyesight and expecting the Cyclops to exit the cave, allowing his crew a path to safety. Unexpectedly, anger aroused within the Cyclops as he started to pick up and eat crew members instead of exiting the cave. Odysseus had seconds to think of a second plan to escape or else everyone would be dead. As the epic poem describes Odysseus conducting his plan: “So three beasts to bear each man, but as for myself?/ There was one bellwether ram, the prize of all the flock,/ and clutching him by his back, tucked him under/ his shaggy belly, there I hung, face upward/ both hands locked in his marvelous deep fleece,/ clinging for dear life, my spirit steeled, enduring…/ So we held on, desperate, waiting for Dawn’s first light” (9. 481-485). Odysseus uses the cattle as a disguise for his crew members, as they are fleeing the cave. As explained, when Odysseus reaches his turn to cover himself and escape, there is only one cattle left to protect him. Although Odysseus could have been selfish and saved more lambs, knowing there wouldn’t be enough for him, he provides each crew member with his 3 lambs. At the moment, Odysseus does not hesitate or allow his fear to show but rather shows his braveness by covering himself best to his ability and hoping for a safe escape. Odysseus’ braveness does indeed allow him and most of his crew members to survive and continue their journey home. Given these points, not only has Odysseus’ bravery increased their survival rate but also motivated and brought everyone closer together. Odysseus’ bravery has shown his men what a strong leader looks like and built them to become one.

Throughout ‘The Odyssey’, Odysseus claims victories through encounters with antagonists and obstacles. As Odysseus’ enemies placed troubles along their path, Odysseus’ bravery was brought forth and helped provide a beneficial leader to his crew. As his journey progresses and mistakes are made, he learns to transform his frustration into motivation. Although some may say that he constructs this thought based purely on keeping his epic hero title, many will beg to differ. Compassion for his crew is developed and becomes stronger as time passes. Odysseus becomes determined to keep his crew alive, after everything they have given and helped him with. Odysseus’ journey home will allow readers to see one example of how an individual must change and develop through their lives, as we will at some point.

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