Transitional Leadership in Homer’s Odyssey: Penelope and Odysseus


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.

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