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Becoming a Leader in the Ancient World

How does one become a leader? This series of case studies examines the ways that individuals are identified, activated, and initiated into leadership roles. The roles that mentors, institutions, and rituals play in transforming someone into a leader are all considered, as well as how the factors of opportunity and identity influence who gets to become a leader. While the case studies draw on sources from ancient Mediterranean cultures, the issues highlighted by the expert authors speak to the dynamics of leadership found in today’s society and organizations.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is popular, albeit controversial, concept in business approaches to leadership, as well as many other facets of modern life. Emotional intelligence encompasses the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s). In our sources from ancient Mediterranean cultures (not limited to Greece and Rome, but also Persia, Phoenicia, Lydia, Egypt, Etruria, etc.), leaders are often evaluated on, advised about, or even boastful of their skill at managing their own emotions and those of their followers. The ancients’ attention to the emotional aptitude of their leaders provides ample material for case studies on the intersection between emotional intelligence and leadership.

Transitions of Power

The moment when an individual or group hands power over to another is perhaps the most fraught and vulnerable event in a community or organization’s life, but also one that is full of potential and opportunity. Transitions of power can confirm the stability of a community, or they can provide an existential threat. The personalities of leaders and their constituents, the institutions of the community, and the circumstances of the transition are all variables in determining whether a transition of power will be uneventful or chaotic. The cultures of the ancient Mediterranean basin (not merely limited to Greece and Rome, but also Persia, Phoenicia, Lydia, Egypt, Etruria, etc.) provide ample evidence for diverse approaches to and outcomes of transitions of power, in literary, documentary, and material sources.