Mallory Monaco-Caterine is the editor of the SAGE Emotional Intelligence Series

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership in the Roman Army: Tacitus’ Agricola

Mallory Monaco Caterine

This case examines the role emotional intelligence plays in a leader’s journey as they advance in a strictly hierarchical institution. We will follow the career of the 1st century CE Roman general and statesman Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who is most famous for securing the frontier province of Britannia for the Roman Empire. His son-in-law, the Roman historian Tacitus, wrote Agricola’s biography to be an example of a “good man under a bad emperor.” The case invites students to evaluate Agricola’s emotional intelligence in three contexts: his relationship with soldiers and leaders in the Roman army; his relationship with the provincial Britons he fought and ruled; and his relationship with the Roman emperors under whom he served, especially Domitian. Agricola’s actions will be classified and evaluated based on the emotional and social competency inventory (ESCI), a tool commonly used in modern business and organizational psychology contexts. Students will assess what forms of emotional intelligence Agricola demonstrated; what he gained from being an emotionally intelligent leader; and the ways in which his emotional intelligence fell short of what the situation required.

Leaders Managing Negative Emotions: The Episode Between Cyrus and Cyaxares in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia 

Melina Tamiolaki

In the Cyropaedia, Xenophon (431-354 B.C.) recounts the life and deeds of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire (600-530 B.C.). Throughout this work Cyrus is depicted as an extremely ambitious and talented man, who manages to rule the Persians and many other nations with their consent. The theme of leadership and emotional intelligence is particularly apt in this context, since Xenophon provides valuable information not only about Cyrus’ emotions, but also about how he handles the emotions of his followers, allies, enemies, and rivals.This case study focuses on a famous episode of the Cyropaedia, the encounter between the Persian prince, Cyrus, and his uncle, the Median King Cyaxares (5.5). The Median King expresses his discontent towards his nephew because the latter succeeded in gaining the affection of his people, the Medes, a fact that makes Cyaxares feel utterly dishonored. This section of the Cyropaedia is replete with emotions: anger, stress, shame, envy, jealousy, and friendship are either explicitly mentioned or indirectly expressed. Xenophon also presents a lengthy conversation between Cyrus and Cyaxares, in the course of which Cyrus attempts to mitigate his uncle’s negative emotions. This section of the Cyropaedia deserves close scrutiny, not only because of the plethora of emotions it stages but also because it can give rise to several reflections on the ways that leaders can handle negative emotions. This case study encourages students to reflect on negative emotions leaders arouse and the ways they resolve tensions deriving from these emotions.

What to Do in a Debt Crisis? The Case of Solon and Athenian Debt Slavery

Michele V. Ronnick

Solon, the sixth century poet and statesman (c. 630-560 BC), “left norms of proper conduct that carry important ethical implications for all manner of human affairs, including commercial activities and the pursuit of wealth” (Lewis, 2009: 123). Solon was concerned about widespread debt in Athens, which pushed many small landholders and farm workers into selling the only thing they still possessed, namely themselves, into slavery after defaulting on loans.What can we learn from Solon in an era that bandies about the phrase “wage slaves” and has seen the treatment that the European Union has given to Greece as a debtor state? Students are asked to think about this and related questions. They may also formulate their own opinions and ask themselves why this problem is so persistent in human history. Can the relationship between the debtors and creditors in a society be more fairly designed? What are the consequences to a society when numbers of common people are crushed by debt? Should the wealthy members of a community be concerned about income inequality? How does altruism (or philanthropy for that matter) fit into this question? An examination of Solon’s solutions to these problems (not only what he did, but the manner that he did it) offers us a valuable window from which to view business practices about credit and debt today.

Isocrates, Aristotle,  and Their Theories of Eunoia (Good Regard)  as Precursors of Emotional Intelligence

Maria G. Xanthou

Modern interest in emotional intelligence (EI) stems from emotion and cognition being perceived as separate and distinctive human abilities. Although EI is related to both emotions and intelligence, it is also distinct from them in involving a primary focus on a specific area of problem solving. Long before the coinage of the term EI, Isocrates and Aristotle acknowledged the significance of taking into account the emotions of others at personal and collective levels. The overarching scheme of Isocratean rhetorical pedagogy and Aristotelian philosophy can be extrapolated, if modified accordingly and combined with eunoia (goodwill or good regard), into a nuanced system of EI, applicable to leadership as well as internal and international politics.The close reading of selected passages from Aristotle’s works and two of Isocrates’s speeches, On the Peace and On Estate Exchange (Antidosis), prompts us to realize that Isocrates and Aristotle perceived eunoia as an interactive concept, entailing cognitive appraisal of the emotions of others. This case study encourages students to consider the interconnection between EI, Aristotle’s philosophy, and Isocrates’s educational program. Students will be asked to think how these can be applied to leadership as well as in different government settings such as internal and international politics.

Domitius at Corfinium: A Failure of Emotional Intelligence

Rosemary L. Moore

In 49 BCE, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army, an act that was tantamount to a declaration of civil war. He led his army on a quick and successful march through Italy on a path strategically chosen to separate his opponents from potential recruits. In his account of this march and subsequent events, the Bellum Civile, Caesar depicts his opponents as failing basic tests of leadership. The Roman senator Domitius Ahenobarbus is portrayed as especially inept, both for his failure to assess the emotional state of his soldiers, and his inability to convince them that they would receive needed support from Rome. The soldiers mutinied and allied with Caesar.Caesar drew on a common set of expectations for Roman military commanders to portray Domitius. A commander’s gestures, words, in general his self-presentation, were used to establish and monitor many aspects of his relationship with his army, notably his credibility and authority, while also providing a means of communication with soldiers. Integral to a commander’s effectiveness was his emotional intelligence, particularly how to attune his own emotional state to what was best for the situation.Students are asked to consider whether Domitius’s failure of leadership could have been avoided through better application of emotional intelligence, as well as whether his failure could be applicable to modern demonstrations of leadership.

Shared Responsibility and Emotional Intelligence in Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica

Rhonda Knight and Eric Litton

This case studies Apollonius of Rhodes’s portrayal of Jason as a reluctant but effective manager. The Argonautica (3rd cent. B.C.E.) is the story of Jason’s obligation to bring the legendary Golden Fleece back to King Pelias. Jason is joined on this quest by many other Greek heroes, named Argonauts. Jason resembles a modern manager who must learn to manage a team of specialists who bring different talents to a project. Jason, unlike many of the Argonauts who are the descendants of gods, has no particular powers. As he becomes the leader of this diverse group, he must learn how to manage them in every new situation they encounter. Some experts have interpreted Jason as a weak leader, but when we analyze his actions and emotions through the lens of emotional intelligence, we can see the ways that Apollonius examines the processes of managing and utilizing the talents of a diverse group.

The Power of Vulnerability: Priam’s Negotiation With Achilles

Catalina Popescu

After Achilles kills his arch-enemy Hector, maims his body, and takes it back to his camp, Hector’s father, the Trojan king, Priam, comes to recover the corpse of his son. The old man arrives at night, in secrecy, and endangers his own life by entering Achilles’s hut with gifts of ransom for Hector’s body. In addition to these, the old man falls on his knees, kisses the hands of his enemy, and points out the similarities between himself and Achilles’s own father, King Peleus, a lonely old man possibly surrounded also by armed enemies. Achilles commiserates and allows him to retrieve his son’s body, adding also a truce between the two parties, in order to allow for Hector’s funeral. In negotiating his dead son’s return Priam shows his social intelligence both as a king and as a father, precisely by drawing a bridge between himself and his enemy Achilles, by gently highlighting their similarities, as unlikely as they may seem. He also subtly questions Achilles’s positive view of himself, when he pictures his father, Peleus, under the vicious attack of warriors like Achilles. In this case study, students will need to consider the circumstances when vulnerability can constitute a sign of strength and how displaying weakness to a rival might actually draw a connection or affinity between the two parties, rather than emphasize their antagonistic status.

Exile, Identity and Adaptation in Ancient Egypt: Sinuhe, Wenamun, and Wermai

Juan Carlos Moreno Garcia

Three extraordinary stories from ancient Egypt describe an Egyptian forced to exile or to endure a difficult situation in unfamiliar lands. Confronted both with a hostile environment and with the impossibility of returning to their homelands, Sinuhe, Wenamun, and Wermai saw their values questioned, their loyalties tested, and their own identities put under stress. These three stories reveal very distinctive personalities and qualities of leadership that led to very different results. As these solutions depended on the capacities of Sinuhe, Wermai, and Wenamun to evaluate their situation, to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, and to adapt to a new environment, their cases represent an excellent opportunity to think about leadership as well as about the conditions in which it is exercised when the normal chain of command and of decision-taking is missing.

Reading Minds and Leading Men: Agamemnon’s Test and Emotional Intelligence

Joel P. Christensen

This case takes a close look at Agamemnon’s famous “test” in the Iliad, when he feigns defeatism in order to gauge the resolve of his people’s commitment to war (Iliad 2.1‚ 485). While interpreters often see Agamemnon’s test as bad strategy and a failure, since his people do try to give up and go home, audiences often overlook that Agamemnon is also ‘testing’ his captains and their commitment to his leadership. This case study will use insights from modern cognitive studies in empathy and so-called “mind-reading” to re-position Agamemnon’s failure as a reflection on the complex and multi-directional nature of leadership in the face of steep odds and difficult conditions. Students will consider how leaders use empathy to “read”‘ the minds and emotional states of their community and the extent to which communities are made up of multiple minds with divergent expectations and reactions. Students will be invited to analyze how Agamemnon’s actions may be judged from both the perspective of their immediate consequences and their long-term effects.

Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Managing Institutional Uncertainty in Ancient Rome

Irene Morrison-Moncure

This case encourages students to consider the emotional effect of a crisis on a community and the role of a leader in managing this effect. When a crisis disrupts the normal functioning of an institution, institutional leadership may no longer feel secure in making decisions or in what those decisions should be. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and mistrust among members of the institution, which can harm relationships within the community and the long-term integrity of the community itself. In this case, students will consider who becomes a leader in a crisis, how a crisis can create institutional uncertainty, the short- and long-term effects of institutional uncertainty, and how a leader with good emotional intelligence can better resolve a crisis, while a leader with poor emotional intelligence can cause additional harm. Ancient Rome entered a period of crisis during a civil war involving the general Julius Caesar. The civil war disrupted Rome’s political institution, the Senate, because Caesar’s actions produced uncertainty among members of the Roman Senate, causing anxiety in the city of Rome. The way Caesar managed this anxiety led to frustration and mistrust within the Roman community both during the crisis and after the crisis ended.

Sophocles’ Philoctetes: Causes of and Remedies for Dehumanization in a Leadership Role

Norman Sandridge

Sophocles’ Philoctetes, performed on the Athenian tragic stage in 409 BCE, provides the opportunity to explore the contemporary construct of dehumanization in a leadership context. Readers of this case study will familiarize themselves with common ways in which those in a leadership role may dehumanize others, and will also develop ways to prevent this from happening in the future. The particular causes for someone to be dehumanized are explored, and include situations in which someone is regarded as a member of an out-group, someone has been injured, someone is regarded as disgusting, and someone is under the power or mercy of another person. Students develop ways to overcome this dehumanization by coming to regard such a person as fully human in terms of their relationships to others, their innate talents and ingenuity, their range of emotions, and their use of language.

Philosophy and Politics: The Case of Plato

Alexander Petkas

Plato has a serious leadership problem. One of his projects has failed, and he is dealing with a major public relations dilemma. This case study examines the efforts of a professional intellectual to influence politics, and the challenges it entailed. Students follow key aspects of Plato’s long involvement with the leadership of Syracuse, and how it related to his efforts to build an educational institution in his home town of Athens. Along the way, Plato must use emotional intelligence to evaluate the true characters of many people involved, and also be sensitive to the way others are evaluating him. At the end, students will be presented with the practical problem faced by Plato, when his greatest ally and friend in Syracuse was killed in a coup.