Mallory Monaco Caterine is the editor of the SAGE Transitions of Power Series.

Selecting a New Leader: Transitions of Power Through Adoption in Imperial Rome

Danielle Chagas de Lima

This case encourages students to contemplate the circumstances and the community expectations for a transition of power. Through two ancient episodes of adoption which were used to transfer power, we will explore how the same kind of choice can produce different results. Although the practice of adoption could seem unusual in a hereditary system, several Roman emperors opted for this method of transitioning power. Students will analyze how emperors Galba and Nerva both went about this process and how only one of them was successful. The success of adoption in this context depends on a series of factors. To whom does the leader transfer power? What is the relation of the adopted heir with various sectors from that community? What fundamental aspects should be considered when choosing a successor? Students will consider what guides the decisions of each emperor and evaluate the main reasons for a successful or uneventful transition of power.

How, When, and Why to Surrender Power: The Case of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus Before and After the Plough

Michele V. Ronnick

Cincinnatus’s willing withdrawal from power as dictator twice during the Roman Republic has inspired many. Our first president, George Washington, is considered to be the “American Cincinnatus.” To Lord Byron, Washington was the “Cincinnatus of the West,” in his “Ode to Napoleon,” written upon Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 (verse 19, line 6). But others (e.g., the American Revolutionary General John Starks, Andrew Jackson, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Bob Dole) have also been compared with Cincinnatus. Twenty-first-century presidential candidate Tom Steyer nicknamed his supporters “Team Cincinnatus” in 2015 while contemplating a campaign to replace the retiring U.S. Senator from California, Barbara Boxer. After studying the original sources, this case will allow students to examine our ideas about public leadership. Is “rule by amateurs” a good idea? Does character and conduct in and out of power matter? Have our ideas about such positions been sought out o a sense of duty (and not self-serving pleasure)? Has the basis of these ideas changed?

The Roman Army Mutinies of 14 CE: Transition and a Crisis of Organizational Identity

Rosemary L. Moore

Near the beginning of the Annales, Roman historian Tacitus describes one of the first reactions to the news of the death of emperor Augustus: large-scale army mutinies in strategically sensitive locations on the Roman frontier. The new emperor, Augustus’ adopted son Tiberius, quickly sent his own son and his nephew to these locations to ascertain the causes of the rebellion and bring the armies back to order. Why the mutinies occurred as well as how they were settled reflect the dissatisfaction soldiers felt, particularly concerning the broken promises of their previous imperator Augustus, uncertainty about their new imperator Tiberius, and the general corruption of the army command structure. Several questions present themselves: What were the causes of these widespread mutinies? Were the methods of resolving the mutinies effective, both in the short and long term? Could the mutinies have been prevented? Students will be asked to consider how upper and middle leadership could have prevented these mutinies, as well as how they resolved the conflict and restored an effective workplace.

The Transition of Power to Aeneas and His Transformation Into a Leader

Andreas Gavrielatos

Aeneas is the son of the goddess Aphrodite, but this has not secured him a leading position among the Trojans nor has it placed him high in decision-making bodies. But Aeneas is destined to become a leader the night the Greeks enter Troy using the Trojan Horse: he must lead the surviving Trojans to a new place and found a new city. In the process he will transform from a “nobody” to a leader survivors will place their hopes with. Aeneas will not assume power automatically, but his narration in Book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid helps us follow his transformation.

Transitional Leadership in Homer’s Odyssey: Penelope and Odysseus

Bronwen Neil

This case study focuses on the role of Penelope, wife of the legendary adventurer Odysseus, in managing the family estate while her husband is away. Although Odysseus is described by the epic poet Homer as “many-wiled” and a trickster, Penelope is equally devious in seeing off rivals to Odysseus’ leadership, both of her home and family. Her dilemma is how to protect the interests of the family estate in the absence of its traditional head, her husband. This famous story gives us some valuable insights into the advantages and pitfalls of having life-partners in leadership teams, and offers lessons in managing challenges to the leadership during transition phases.

“Not to Fall Short of Those Before Me”: Xerxes and the Pitfalls of Rising to Power

Kleanthis Mantzouranis

The account of Xerxes’ ascent to the Persian throne by the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BCE) highlights the opportunities and pitfalls presented to leaders in situations of transition of power. Confronted with diverse motives and expectations (established organizational practice, personal ambition, ethical norms, practical considerations), and in the face of conflicting recommendations by his advisers, King Xerxes decides whether to embark on a military expedition against Greece.This case asks students to consider the dilemmas and challenges that new leaders face upon assuming power and the criteria that determine their decision-making. Students will consider what motivates new leaders; how institutional pressure influences their decisions; how new leaders respond to the “legacy” of their predecessors, and the role of the leaders’ advisers in the process.

Odysseus’s “Right”: Failed Transition and Political Power in The Odyssey

Joel P. Christensen

When Odysseus goes to war at Troy, there is a failure to effectively transfer power, undermining the ability of the Ithacan people to act together and leaving extreme action upon his return as the only option for resolution. This case study allows students to discuss three key scenes in books 2, 16, and 24 of Homer’s Odyssey, which explore how Odysseus both facilitates and limits the execution of leadership and power on Ithaca. It will ask readers to consider how Ithacan political practices communicate essential beliefs and values about leadership. By examining the tensions in these values, students will be able to understand how unquestioned assumptions about leadership and unarticulated policies about the execution and transfer of power set groups of people into conflict before they even attempt to work together.

A Civilian in Charge of Soldiers: The Second Transition of Power in the Ten Thousand

Davide Morassi

In 401 BCE, the Persian prince Cyrus the Younger, seeking to seize the throne, hired an army of Greek mercenaries: the so-called Ten Thousand. When Cyrus died at the battle of Cunaxa, the Greeks found themselves in the midst of the Persian empire, with little hope. This hope became even more forlorn when the most influential leaders of the Greeks were killed in an ambush. Somebody had to take control; but who? Xenophon was not an officer, nor even a soldier. However, he was able to rise to the position of commander of one of the three biggest companies of the Ten Thousand, and later even attained the supreme command. His memoirs provide an interesting, although idealized, case study, which emphasize many essential elements of leadership in a moment of transition. The subtle balancing act with surviving institutions and past leaders, the focus on subordinates’ emotions to build confidence and trust, and the importance of communal ideals and ethical choices are only some of the pillars on which Xenophon built his power. From this case study students will appreciate what is needed for an effective change in leadership to be made, as well as the challenges that face the one attempting to emerge in a new environment.

Change Agency in the Myths of Prometheus

Eric Litton and Rhonda Knight

It is a truism that businesses and societies must change with the times. This means that leaders, especially established ones, must learn to accept change. Hesiod’s Theogony shows the beginning of the world according to the Greeks. It also discusses several transitions of power that eventually lead to Zeus punishing humankind. The Titan Prometheus is involved in these changes by helping transition the leadership structure (the Titans vs. the gods), giving fire to humankind, and participating in negotiations between humankind and Zeus. The portrayals of Prometheus in Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogony as well as Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound focus on his varied roles as a change agent and often cast Zeus as an autocratic leader. This case allows students to examine the actions of Prometheus, Zeus, and others in these examples of power transition.

Leading With Self-Awareness: Lessons From the Second Roman Emperor

Irene Morrison-Moncure

This case guides students to evaluate the role of emotional intelligence in ethical decision-making by considering the life of Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, as documented by the Roman biographer Suetonius. Suetonius chronicled the lives of many Roman emperors, listing both their accomplishments and misdeeds, and his focus on an emperor’s virtues and vices has prompted readers to judge each emperor as either “good” or “bad.” Many have judged Tiberius as a bad emperor, and even as a tyrant. But Suetonius suggests that Tiberius began his rule as a conscientious leader who demonstrated self-awareness and a high level of emotional intelligence. This challenges us to view Tiberius in a different light and to consider the ethics of a bad person being a good leader. Through the evidence presented in Suetonius’s “Life of Tiberius,” this case examines how the second Roman emperor used self-awareness and ethical decision-making to navigate the temptations of his new imperial role and evaluates the steps that Tiberius took in the early years of his reign to protect Rome from his incompatibilities, vices, and eventual abuses of power.