Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ancient Texts and Leadership

Athol Dempster, 23, is a hardworking scholar-athlete from our Flatbush Gardens location. Athol completed his Associates at BMCC and is now at Baruch finishing his BA while working part time at Target. This is his fabulous midterm paper for English. 

   It is four in the afternoon. I clock in for work, not too thrilled about working but I’m happy that I will make some money. Then I check the grid and find out that my manager called out due to an emergency at home. I am now thrown in the position as acting team leader basically, acting manager for my section.  With everyone a little disappointed that we may have more work to do, I inform them that I am in charge, and I give them words of encouragement just as Beowulf gave to King Hrothgar's men who had fear of Grendel the monster.  This is one of the qualities needed to be a leader. Texts such as “Beowulf”, “Kebra Nagast” and “The Odyssey” show people with the traits of leadership. Traits such as confidence, wisdom and bravery are shown in these texts, and I can apply them to my everyday life to be a good leader at my job. 

               The text of “Beowulf” dates back to as far as the eighth century.  Even though the author was unknown, it was passed down from generation to generation. A monster named Grendel goes to Heorot and terrorizes the king and his soldiers every night by killing them and beats them when they try to fight back.  For years the King and his soldiers have suffered at the hands of the monster Grendel, until a young warrior named Beowulf hears about what happens in Heorot and decides to accept the challenge to defeat the monster.  He then gets on a boat and sails to Denmark with a group of men, to defeat the monster Grendel.  Hrotahgar held a feast for Beowulf in his honor for his bravery to fight the monster.  During the feast a man named Unferth accuses Beowulf of not being the person that his reputation makes him out to be. During the night, Grendel appears and the young hero Beowulf defeats Grendel unarmed.

            Just like in Beowulf, sometimes my troops or coworkers would be very pessimistic about the rest of our shift without a manager. When I take charge as acting, I am very confident and I believe that I can handle the pressure of being in that position in my job. I usually give them a brief speech that if we all do what we are supposed to do, we will make it a very smooth and productive day. It also could be because I already have a reputation for getting employee of the month for months straight that my team believes in me and my decisions.

              The “Kebra Nagast” is a text which many Ethiopian Christian Rastafarians state is very important literature and is very influential to them. It follows the relationship between King Solomon and Makeda the queen of Sheba. She hears about Solomon the King of Jerusalem from a merchant. The merchant describes to the queen how wise and charismatic the king is, which makes her intrigued with him and she decides to travel to meet him. When she meets him, she develops deep feelings for him and eventually has a child with him. 

          One of the reason she admires him so much is because she is able to see the way he rules over his kingdom by showing the builders how to build the House of God. Wisdom is a great quality which Solomon possessed and used for good.  While I am in charge of my team I always tell them, “If there is anything you want to know, just ask me.” Why do I say this, you say? I usually try to teach someone else the knowledge they would need if they decided one day to take an active manager position or an even higher position. I share my knowledge with whoever is willing to learn. I do not keep it to myself, because I do not feel it is beneficial to everyone if I am the only one with the knowledge to do something when I can teach them and they will not have to rely on me. 

            “The Odyssey” takes place in lower Europe in Greece where a king name Odysseus has not returned to his kingdom Ithaca in ten years. The people of his kingdom, including his wife and his son, believe he is dead. He is trapped on an island by a nymph named Calypso, while the gods discuss his future on mount Olympus. The goddess Athena tells his son Telemachus that he is still alive, while on Mount Olympus Zeus sends Hermes to force Calypso to allow the hero to build a ship and leave. When Poseidon the god of the sea hears about this, he sends a storm to destroy his ship, and Athena decides to save him.  Odysseus ends up on the land of Scheria, where he is well treated after he tells them who he is and his stories. The Phaecaians return him to Ithaca. He then meets Telemachus, and they devise a plan to retake control of Ithaca. Odysseys then wins the archery contest to win his wife back for the suitors. Both he and his son kill the suitors. He then reveals himself to the palace and his long travel back home finally comes to an end. 

              In the story Odysseus is faced with a challenge when trapped by the Cyclops and seeing his men get eaten. He is faced with a decision to try to escape rather than sit and wait for death. This kind of bravery was one of the reasons he was king, because he did not let the fear stop him from devising and executing his plan. I may have to be a little gutsy with my decisions as acting manager such as putting someone who is not strong in another section, who is not familiar with it because of the hand I’m dealt, but I will face the consequence of the decisions I have made.

                 Bravery, confidence and wisdom are the qualities of a good leader. Such is said by Cyrus the Great in his book on how to be a good leader and these qualities are shown by these characters in the texts. As I substitute manager, I feel that these are very important qualities and I feel I exhibit these qualities also my ability to adapt to situation is what helps me to be to a be a good leader and develop my leaderships skills.

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