Leadership and Power Term Paper

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Power and Leadership as Exemplified by Three Ancient Texts

Power and leadership are not exactly the same thing, of course, but they are inextricably interrelated for without power, effective leadership would not be possible and without leadership, power would be rendered useless. To help shed some light on these concepts from a modern perspective, this paper provides a review and analysis of three ancient texts, Genesis, the Epic of Gilgamesh and Lysistrata to better understand how they addressed the respective themes of leadership and power. A discussion concerning how leaders come to power, their responsibilities, real and symbolic, and what responsibilities citizens of a given society have in choosing leaders or in holding leaders accountable for their actions is followed by an analysis of the types of recourses available for citizens to use against tyranny and how these trends continue to impact the modern understanding of leadership. A summary of the research and salient findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview.

Because the precise meaning of the terms involved is important to this analysis, a definition of power and leadership are in order. According to Black's Law Dictionary (1990), there are numerous types of "power," but the term generally means having "the right, ability, authority, or faculty of doing something. Authority to do any act which the grantor might himself lawfully perform. In a restricted sense, a 'power' is a liberty or authority reserved by, or limited to, a person to... dispose of the interest which is vested in another" (1170). This definition suggests that power has little to do with leadership, but rather merely refers to the capability or potential of accomplishing something without the accompanying action needed to do so. By sharp contrast, the term leadership implies action of some sort. While scholars have failed to achieve a consensus on precisely what leaders and leadership mean exactly (Rost 6), this author provides a useful starting point for such this definitive need. According to Rost (1993), a typical definition of leader is, "One who leads, guides, conducts, directs, or controls; a director or conductor, a chief or commander. One who is first or most prominent in any relation; one who takes precedence by virtue of superior qualifications or influence; a recognized principal or superior" (40).

Likewise, the definition of leadership offered by Rost is even more concise and to the point for an analysis of how power and leadership interrelate today: "The dignity, office, or position of a leader, especially of a political party; also, ability to lead" (40). The definitions of leadership that have been published in dictionaries since the 1960s have simply been variations on these same definitive themes, with virtually all of them containing the two definitions found in earlier dictionaries, to-wit: (1) the office or position of a leader and (2) the ability to lead (Rost 42). It is therefore the fundamental "ability" or "capability" to lead that forms the cornerstone of the modern perspectives concerning power and leadership, but it has not always been that way and the three ancient under consideration herein make this abundantly clear, and these issues are discussed further below.

How Leaders Come to Power: The "Hook and Crook" of Becoming a Leader.

Throughout history, some special men and women have emerged as leaders of others. These people (and a serpent or two) have used countless approaches to their individual leadership style, but they all have assumed power by effecting some sort of substantive change on their fellow man in the social structure. Warlords and dictators may effect this change on others violently as history has shown time and again, while more peaceful-minded leaders may use their own charisma and personal powers of persuasion to acquire positions of leadership.

Not surprisingly, many ancient texts - but not all -- attribute the abilities of early leaders to divine sources. For example, while it does not specifically state how God came to be, Genesis (King James Version used throughout) does state that, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (1:1), clearly indicating that God originally possessed the power (e.g., the capability or capacity) to do so from the outset, as noted above, though, simply possessing the capability or capacity to do something is meaningless without some type of action, and Genesis is full of examples of God's power in action. Moreover, Genesis is very clear and consistent in its treatment of God's power and how it was used in an authoritative and action-packed fashion to lead mankind. For example, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (2:7), and, "the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat..." (2:16).

What remains unclear is why an omnipotent and all-knowing deity would create the circumstances wherein free will would thwart his plans for a paradise for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but because it is impossible to know the mind of God, modern researchers must restrict their analysis to the implications of how this power was actually used and what results it had on the course of mankind. In fact, assuming that God also used his power to create "the serpent," rather than this force preexisting alongside God, the first leader in history would appear to be "the serpent" because God's power had been communicated to this entity in the form of authority to subvert his will if man so chose. As Eve confessed to God, who already knew the score in advance because he had set things up to happen this way: "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat" (Genesis 3:13). Even assuming this argument is misplaced, the other leader that would appear to be created by God using delegated power would be Eve in that she was the one, at least according to Judeo-Christian dogma, who was responsible for the "original sin" that has plagued mankind ever since (the Koran, by contrast, assigns equal responsibility to this act, making this arrangement the first partnership). If Moses is accepted as being the author of the Book of Genesis, there are still questions concerning the method by which he received it and transmitted it; there are three possibilities identified by Moore (2003):

Moses received it all by direct revelation from God, either in the form of audible words dictated by God and transcribed by him, or else by visions given him of the great events of the past, which he then put down in his own words, as guided subconsciously by the Holy Spirit;

He received it all by oral traditions, passed down over the centuries from father to son, which he then collected and wrote down, again as guided by the Holy Spirit; or,

He took actual written records of the past, collected them, and brought them together into a final form, again as guided by the Holy Spirit (37).

In any event, the assumption of leadership positions by the patriarchal figures in the Book of Genesis is inextricably based on their divine connection. Likewise, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the power assigned King Gilgamesh is divine in origin and is delegated to such partial mortals in order to effect change on their fellow humans by a higher power. Many scholars believe that these same patterns were followed in the accounts provided in Genesis as well (Brodie 68). According to Brodie, "As years passed it became clear that not only the flood story but much of Genesis 1-11 depended in some way on ancient texts that still survive, especially on epic poetry. Genesis 1-11 has absorbed, transformed, and synthesized various aspects of the Epic of Gilgamesh" (68). This point is also made by Clifford (1990) who advises, "Mesopotamian culture [was] evidently the model for most of the stories in Genesis....The similarity of the Atrahasis plot to Gen 2 -- 9 is clear....The biblical writers have produced a version of a common Mesopotamian story of the origins of the populated world" (2 quoted in Brodie at 68). Although Genesis 1-11 has been rejected by a number of researchers being actual history, these accounts, like the exploits recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh, have provided mankind with inspirational stories that have helped them cope with life; however, unlike the Epic of Gilgamesh, one authority suggests that "Genesis 1-11, including the creation account, is real history, reporting on real persons and events in space and time" (DeLashmutt 2).

In sharp contrast to these very early "leaders" who came to power by an act of God as described in Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh, though, the various leadership figures described in Lysistrata came to power by virtue of their individual abilities and leadership traits that were recognized by their peers who mutually agreed to elevate them to these exalted positions in Greek society. According to Halliwell (1997), the leadership qualities of Lysistrata [are] broadly reminiscent of the Aristophanic… [END OF PREVIEW]

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