Throughout the epic poem, Homer portrays Odysseus as a leader who fails to meet the qualities valued by the Greeks. In ancient Greek society, loyalty, hospitality, assertiveness, and responsibility were highly esteemed traits in a leader. The Greeks upheld loyalty as crucial, as their social hierarchy revolved around devotion to the gods. This was evident when gods disguised themselves to test mortals’ loyalty (Homer 6). Furthermore, xenia, or hospitality, held great importance in Greek culture (carefree.org).
According to Lothario Katz, assertiveness is a crucial characteristic for leaders as it demonstrates confidence in their decisions. Adkins (1961) emphasizes the value of responsibility as leaders should prioritize what is best for their team in order to lead them towards greatness. All these qualities are considered important in Greek leaders. However, in the epic poem, Odysseus exhibits traits of a poor leader when he loses focus on his main goal of returning to Ithaca by being enticed by Circe’s luxurious lifestyle.
According to the text (Homer 206), Odysseus and his men stayed for a whole year, disregarding their responsibilities and loyalty to each other. This goes against the qualities valued by the Greeks in a leader. Odysseus’ prolonged stay on the island prevents their return to Ithaca, thus failing to fulfill their obligation to each other. Despite initially being led by greed, it was ultimately Odysseus’ choice to stay for a whole year. Another instance of Odysseus’ lack of focus is shown when praising Allusions, as he would rather wait and gain riches over time instead of ensuring the safety and loyalty of his men on their journey back home.
Sys implying that he will wait for gifts, Odysseus showcases irresponsibility and disloyalty. His actions, or rather lack thereof, indicate that he often lacks the needed qualities for good leadership. He fails to assert his authority and set consequences for his men, which is a clear example of poor leadership. This is evident when they are journeying back to Ithaca and the crew starts suspecting that Odysseus is greedily hoarding a bag of treasure for himself, going against his orders. “They opened up the sack. The bands of wind lepta out’” (Ho-near 192).
If Odysseus had informed his men of the consequences of opening the bag or had established clear consequences, his return to Ithaca would not have been further delayed. His lack of control not only signifies poor leadership but also illustrates the diminishing loyalty and trust of his men as seen from the beginning of the poem. Another situation arises when Odysseus and his crew arrive at the Island of the Sun. Despite Odysseus’ warning against consuming the cattle, Urology’s convinces the other men to disregard Odysseus’ orders and feast on the cattle (248).
Instead of heeding Odysseus’ instructions, the crewmen listen to their fellow crewmember, Urology. This reveals a lack of trust in their leader and highlights Odysseus’ lack of control. Furthermore, it demonstrates his irresponsibility as he abandons his men and fails to ensure they follow orders. Throughout The Odyssey, Odysseus’ failure to enforce consequences for his men diminishes his power and control.
Homer illustrates how Odysseus contradicts the characteristics valued by ancient Greeks in a leader, thus portraying him as primarily lacking leadership qualities. The mistrust from the crew mirrors the suspicion of the citizens of France towards Louis WI. By failing to exhibit the traits that Greeks admire in a leader, Odysseus fails to prove himself as a competent leader. Additionally, his inability to delegate has detrimental effects not only on his crew but also on his ultimate objective of securing victory.