Leadership is a service to those following a person. Being a service, it requires the development of skills, this case being leadership skills. However, given the frailty of human nature, it is common for one to become seduced by the trappings of power. In this case, rather than motivating one’s subjects to fulfilling their vision, one imposes their will on them(Bacon 34-49). Believing to be beyond reproach, one degenerates into a despot. In the end, the leader shifts from serving to ruling. If left unchecked, one easily abuses their power to meet their selfish desires.
In the current world, to a degree, one can achieve leadership position. The position does not have to be political, it could be in corporate or religious context. In the Ancient times, the stratification of society meant one destiny was predetermined from the time of their birth. If one was born into royalty, they would be leaders in future(Giuliani 666-669). The common misattribute this brought, was that it tended to make the royalty unacquainted to the needs of their subjects. It is difficult for one raised in extreme opportunity to understand the harsh realities involved in every day life. This made Kings and rulers become high handed and vain. This changed when they underwent an experience taught them lessons in reality, changing their perspectives.
In the texts of Ramayana and Gilgamesh, both were nobility. Ramayana was crown prince, Gilgamesh king. They enjoyed the accruing benefits that came with power, they also led comfortable lives. In the case of Gilgamesh, the trappings of power and successful military campaigns got over his head. He wantonly abused power. A true despot, he went as far as raping any woman he desired fully aware that there would be no consequence to him. He was feared and his strength was legendary. This went on until Enkidu stepped up to him. He was neither nobility nor strong. The shear power of his will and the gods desire to teach Gilgamesh a lesson on humility were the strengths that led to him beating Gilgamesh. That very person despite their social position has their own capabilities and deserves respect. The lesson here was the mighty are brought down by their undermining of their opponents. (Giuliani 666-669)
Ramayana’s exile and kidnap of Sita by Ravana taught him great lessons, more so on the problems facing the average person in the kingdom. Ravana plagued the people, being royal, Ramayana had protection, hence, neither he nor those in his family fell victim to Ravana. This changed during exile and he found himself a common person. He was vulnerable and became a victim of Ravana when he took his wife Sita. This prompted him into action. A curious question posed is, if he had remained in the castle and not become a victim himself would he have made the decisive action to end Ravana? The lesson to all leaders learn is empathy. Every leader must strive to understand their subjects. One should lead from the front and not use power to give orders from the back. (Bacon 34-49)
Vulnerability is a virtue
Socrates believed in vulnerability being a virtue. The effects of Socrate’s thinking and philosophical arguments in Ancient Greece cannot be stressed any further. It was so strong, that at times it was adopted as the philosophical stand of the Greek culture. Socrates and other ancient thinkers, are credited for bringing about the need to look beyond physical attributes and stature and develop an insightful look towards life. This was manifested with the view that vulnerability was a virtue and not a weakness. In fact, the definition of vulnerability was the acceptance and self-awareness of being subject to harm (Goittlieb) . It was not weakness, it was wisdom. It is through the acceptance of a person’s vulnerability that they manifest a broader dimension to their understanding of themselves as individuals and the society they are in. In fact, vulnerability is the very key that unlocks on to the meaning of life and opens the desire to leave a positive legacy. Through vulnerability, one’s focus in life shifts from themselves to those around them. (Goittlieb)
In stories of Gilgamesh and Ramayana, one sees the fundamental shift that takes place in their value systems. They cease from the misplaced self-attributions they had, to encompassing those around them. Gilgamesh dropped his haughtiness, and his heart became more accessible. Ramayana went forth to fulfill his destiny and helping humanity by fighting brave battles. What led to this? They both became aware of their own fallibility from the loss of loved ones. (Valmiki &Ramesh) (Gilgamesh & Sandras)
Both Ramayana and Gilgamesh have larger than life characteristics. They possess often lauded physical attributes; strength and beauty. They also are rulers, Gilgamesh is a King whereas Ramayana is the crown prince. This gives them the appeal of both power and strength. This appeal is, however, the source of their downfall. Gilgamesh proceeds to become proud and high-handed, a despot who forced his will rather than serve the people. Ramayana was a victim of his step-mother’s, Kaikeyi, evil machinations that force him from the throne into exile in the forest. (Valmiki &Ramesh) (Gilgamesh & Sandras)
Through Enkidu, Gilgamesh learnt of his own fallibility. This was first by losing a battle to Enkidu, effectively cutting down his ballooned ego. Interestingly, Gilgamesh did not become angry at Enkindu, rather he accepted he could be beaten and laid the ground for what would become a great relationship. He left his despotic ways and used his position to serve rather than rule. His change of heart to being more approachable was a welcome blessing to his subjects. In the end when Enkidu dies, he rather than become depressed, dedicates his remaining days to travelling the world learning new things. (Gilgamesh & Sandras)
In Sita, Ramayana bravery and leadership skills were revealed. He had accepted his fate of exile away from the throne. However, when Sita was kidnapped by the demon king Ravana, Ramayana quickly rallies together an army. Through the aid of his brother, Lakshmana and the Monkey king Hanuman, he attacks Ravana. After a long, brutal battle, he kills Ravana, effectively putting a stop to his evil that had plagued people for so long. He then proceeds to reclaim his throne. The loss of Sita had awakened his bravery. (Valmiki &Ramesh)
Gilgamesh., and N. K Sandars. The Epic Of Gilgamesh. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1972.
Gottlieb, Anthony. Socrates. New York: Routledge, 1999.
Vālmīki., and Ramesh Menon. The Ramayana. New York: North Point Press, 2003.
Bacon, Terry R. The Elements Of Power. New York: AMACOM American Management Association, 2011.
Giuliani, Rudolph W, and Ken Kurson. Leadership. New York: Hyperion, 2002.