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Odysseus leadership skills in the land of the dead

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Odysseus demonstrates admirable leadership skills during his journey to the land of the Cimmerians. Knowing the inherent dangers of the voyage they are about to undertake, he validates the fears and anxieties held by his crewmen by crying with them as they set sail. One could say that by being unafraid to express emotion—acknowledging their shared humanity—Odysseus strengthens his bond with crew. This act of solidarity serves to bolster their spirits.

After successfully navigating to the land of the dead, he demonstrates respect for Circe by following her instructions to the letter: pouring out a libation, sacrificing two sheep, and promising to honor the souls of the dead with an even finer sacrifice when he returns to Ithaca. A good leader knows how to take as well as give advice.

A good leader possesses excellent skills in diplomacy, which Odysseus demonstrates as the dead surge forward, drawn to the smell of the sacrificial blood. Although a former crewmate, Elpenor, as well as Achilles, Agamemnon, and the spirit of Odysseus' departed mother are among the great throng of dead souls, Odysseus refuses to let them partake in the sacrifice until the prophet Teiresias has had his fill. Teiresias then rewards him with a prophecy—one whose ultimate outcome depends on the successful completion of further tasks and sacrifices. Instead of balking at the investiture of time and resources that these will require, Odysseus calmly accepts the prophet’s pronouncement, knowing how to weigh its risks and benefits, as well as its positive and negative aspects. A good leader knows the difference between action and reaction.

Where action is concerned, a good leader, especially one who commands an army, also knows when to retreat. As more dead swarm about him, overwhelmed by their number and demands, Odysseus has an epiphany: no matter how fraught with hardships, he decides that he prefers life to an existence in the spirit realm, and successfully leads his men back to the world of the living.

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