• The shepherd king and his flock: paradoxes of leadership and care in classical Greek philosophy

    Carol Atack (see profile)
    Xenophon, Political science--Philosophy, Classics, Management
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    classics, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Ancient Philosophy, Ethics of care, Leadership, Xenophon, homer
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    Chapter in Paradox and Power in Caring Leadership: Critical and Philosophical Reflections (2020), edited by Leah Tomkins, published by Edward Elgar, pp. 75-85. When Xenophon, the fourth-century BCE Athenian soldier and writer, and once one of Socrates’ students, tried to explain the nature of leadership, in his extended case study and biography of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia in the sixth century BCE and founder of its empire, his Cyropaedia, he turned to a familiar image, that of the king or leader as shepherd. For Xenophon, Cyrus provided a model of how to lead and inspire troops, and how, after the campaign was over, to set up a stable government in the conquered territory. Xenophon explores what qualities enabled Cyrus to rule more successfully than others. But when he invokes the image of the king as shepherd, Xenophon opens a set of questions about the consequences of the unequal and asymmetric relationship between leaders and those they lead, as well as emphasising the centrality of care to ideas of what constituted good leadership. Like other thinkers of his time, the image of the ruler as shepherd enables a debate on the paradoxes of leadership and care (Brock 2013: 43-52).
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    12 months ago
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