The Seven Transformations Of Leadership in Beowulf
Beowulf is an epic poem written around 700 CE and takes place in 500 AD. It tells the story of a fearless warrior, Beowulf, who is apart of the Geats tribe and resides in Scandinavia (present day Sweden.) Beowulf has the grip of 30 men and traveled to (present day) Denmark to defeat the ruthless monster, Grendel.
The “Seven Transformations of Leadership” article by David Rooke and William Torbet show different types of leaders based on their action logic. According to the article, an action logic is how leaders interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged. At the bottom, you have an Opportunist. An Opportunist is someone who only finds a way for themselves and is selfish. The Diplomat, next, are trying to make peace in a benigne way. Third is The Experts try to control the world around them. Achievers focus more on the outputs of people rather than the inputs and how they turn out. The Strategist, fifth, masters organizational impacts of actions and agreements.On the contrast at the top of the list is an Alchemist. Being able to renew and reinvent themselves and change their organizations history, puts them at the top. We meet Hermod and immediately can tell that he is an Opportunist. Opportunist are, “Egocentric and see other people as opportunities to be exploited”.
In the poem Beowulf, we see Hermod as egocentric, “Heaped troubles on his unhappy people’s heads, ignoring all the wise men’s warnings, only ruling with courage … hearing no voices but his own, he deserved to suffer and die”. Being egocentric as a leader is horrible because you never know what anyone else needs. Hermod was killing his own people by not listening to their needs. He is a very selfish leader in doing this. He only listens to his own thoughts. Moreover, Hrothgar warns Beowulf that if he follows him he’ll end up how he did, “At the end, he was alone and knew none of the joys of life”. Being able to exploit your own people is horrible. It’s horrible because they trusted you to rule over them and make wise decisions and point them in the right direction. Hrothgar warning Beowulf about this is significant because we see Hermod being exploited by him being alone and having no joys in life. Having a world full of Opportunistic leaders means that there won’t even be tribes or groups, everyone over time will break off and try to rule over people.
Siegmund falls under the Alchemist action logic. This action logic “Has the strategy to renew or reinvent themselves and their organizations in historically significant ways”. In other words, he works hard for the greater good, reinventing himself in historically certain ways. In Beowulf, Siegmund shows that he has a great way of wanting to be remembered because, “By Siegmund’s might and forever remembered, fame that would last him beyond life and death”. He is an alchemist because he will be remembered forever by reinventing himself. In addition this also shows that he reinvents himself after he kills the dragon. After he wins it states, “No prince, no protector of warriors, knew power and fame and glory like Siegmund’s; his name and his treasures grew great”. Reinventing yourself like this is fantastice. If you have this much power, then your people will have no other reason to respect you and they will think highly of you. The Alchemist action logic is at the top for this very reason, reinventing themselves in historically significant ways, which Siegmund has just done. This is good for the people because they know that their king is doing everything he can and it’s all working.
King Hrothgar is a wise and aged ruler who falls under the Achiever action logic. Achievers, “Create a positive team and interdepartmental atmosphere” (Rooke and Torbert.) We see Hrothgar making a positive team by him winning a battle, “Then Hrothgar taking the throne, led The Danes to such glory that comrades and Kinsman swore by his sword, and young men swelled, his armies and he thought of greatness and resolved”. This is important because in order to be a successful king and leader, you need to have an army with great chemistry to win. We see how this transfers into making a great interdepartment atmosphere. We see when Beowulf travels to Denmark with men to defeat Grendel and meets Hrothgar and he states, “All-knowing God must have sent you such words”. This is stating that Beowulf has said something so powerful from a young warriors perspective, “I say if the Geats leader falls sick and dies, they could do no better, find no man better suited to be king”. Right before going into battle the armies hear Hrothgar declare such powerful words for Beowulf show them just what type of leader he is. Hrothgar sees something very special in Beowulf that we come back to later in the story and that is him as a person. Hrothgar noticing Beowulf is like this is great for his people because they see he thinks of others, other than himself.
Beowulf is the embodiment of what a leader is and what they do. In being a Strategist they, “Deal with conflict more comfortably than the other action logics and are highly effective change agents” (Rooke and Torbert.) In the beginning of the poem, we can see that Beowulf is extremely comfortable with conflict, “Other monsters crowded around me, continually attacking, I treated them politely, offering the edge of my razor-sharp sword”. Being this comfortable with conflict is amazing. He’s saying while underwater these monsters are attacking him and he is just offering them his sword. This is huge because it shows just what he is scared of. Nothing. Beowulf does not have fear of anything and as a prince, that is exactly what you’re supposed to be scared of. Beowulf is seen as a change agent because when he was battling the Frisians, Healfdane’s son said to him, “Beowulf was born a better man, your fame is everywhere, my friend, reaches to the ends of the Earth, and you hold it to your heart wisely, patient with your strength and our weakness”. Other people view Beowulf as a change agent because he has one all of these great things for the people of Scandinavia. Healfdane’s son wished this upon Beowulf because he sees how hard he wants to protect his people.
Other leaders recognizing your potential and good qualities are good because they see all the good you can do as a leader and most of all, what type of person you are. Beowulf is an epic poem which displays qualities of great and terrible leaders. The Seven Transformations of Leadership display leaders from worst to best, evil to good. Beowulf being written in 700 CE and the Seven Transformations being published in 2006 have the same basic philosophy as what a good and bad leader looks like. You can tell good from the bad because they always blame somebody else, have no courage or willingness to work and basically kills their own people. Good leaders know right from wrong, train others in their footsteps, see no individual classes and take care of everyone. Excellent leaders can change the world.
All in all, we see types of leaders everyday and we can tell what type they are and what type they will turn into. In Beowulf we see how certain leaders are faced with choices of right and wrong each day. Hermod failed, the exact opposite of what a leader is supposed to embody. Hrothgar is a charismatic, loving and courageous leader. Beowulf is a leader who comes back over and over, waiting to get his turn but meanwhile takes care of everyone. That is what a good person does too. In order to be a great leader, you first need to make sure you’re a better person. Siegmund, Alchemist, is there because of all the riches he brought to his people and how happy he made them. By going down to fight the dragon alone, moving the rock aside, and swinging his sword savagely, he brought them riches for days and days to come. Therefore, making him be remembered beyond his life and death, which is what great leaders do. If you are great, you will be talked about forever.
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