This is a particularly interesting chapter of this epic text, as it is possible to argue that the skill of Odysseus as a leader is actually shown to decrease as the chapter progresses. If we examine his actions for one moment, at first he seems to be a wise leader who counsels his sailors effectively. After raiding the Ciconian people, for example, Odysseus tries to get his men to leave. Their refusal to obey him results in the death of seventy of their number. Likewise, Odysseus is effective in responding to the Lotus Eaters, and drags his men away from a sleepy and lackadaisical drug-filled doom.
However, all sense, caution and wisdom seems to desert Odysseus when they reach the island of Polyphemus, the Cyclops. He seems to become suddenly obsessed with personal glory and the desire to show his cunning and might in a situation that risks the life of his men. He is determined to gain some sort of prize from Polyphemus, and this results in the death of a few of his men. Even after he has managed to trick him successfully, he ignores the entreaties of his crew to taunt Polyphemus:
'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would have pounded our heads and our ship's timbers into a jelly with the rugged rocks he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a long way.'
He carries on, secure in his own arrogance, causing Polyphemus to curse him and his men, that results in all of their deaths eventually. If it is leadership ability we are examining, Odysseus, although he starts well, seems to have abandoned any sense of responsibility for his men by the end of this book.