Leadership in Adversity: Pliny’s Rescue Mission


Would you take a personal risk to help your community? Could you balance leading others with serving them? Should you define your actions narrowly as successes or failures? Consider these and similar questions about leadership by examining the last day of the Elder Pliny, a scholar and navy officer of the Roman Empire. Stationed in the Bay of Naples in 79 C.E., Pliny woke up one August morning to see Mt. Vesuvius erupt across the waters from his fleet. In that moment, he made a life-changing choice: rather than seek shelter, he rushed to evacuate friends stranded near the exploding mountain. This case takes you through Pliny’s journey to Vesuvius, asking you to take on his dilemmas and decisions as he unknowingly proceeds to his death. By putting yourself in Pliny’s position you will challenge your ideas about leadership, and you will determine whether you have the courage to guide others.

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.

2023 Sage Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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