Iphigeneia in Command: An Unexpected Leader at an Unforeseen Time


In Euripides’ play Iphigeneia at Aulis, written between 408 and 406 bc, we are initially presented with a typical war scenario: young heroes readying themselves for battle under the leadership of a traditional leader, while their wives wait at home, hoping for their return. Only when the winds refuse to blow, because of Artemis’ grudge against the warlord Agamemnon, do the feminine and the masculine world, initially separated, come together in a true crisis.

Agamemnon is told to sacrifice his own daughter Iphigeneia to placate the goddess and those who are eager to go to Troy. While pretending to be enslaved by his sense of duty, Agamemnon also has underlying ambitions that compete with his love for family. Thus, he lures his daughter into a camp under the false pretense of marrying her. Iphigeneia appears initially as a demure daughter with no other desires than fulfilling her feminine and filial obligations. However, once she understands the truth and passes through the initial shock, she agrees to sacrifice herself for the sake of her fatherland and the wellbeing of others. Although Agamemnon’s leadership qualities are questionable, Iphigeneia’s acceptance of her own demise in the service of others is truly selfless and inspirational. It proves that leaders are not determined by hierarchical expectations, nor need they be of a certain age, experience, or gender. Leaders are born and reveal themselves particularly when the odds are against them. Sometimes, leading others comes at the cost of losing oneself. In this case, students will be asked to evaluate the characteristics of true leadership. They will also investigate the importance of crisis in revealing potential leaders and opportunities for transitional and transformational leadership.

This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes.

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