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Beowulf is a fiction story by an anonymous poet whom scholars refer to as “Beowulf poet.” The fiction is set in Scandinavia and details a hero of the Geats (Beowulf) who comes to the help of the king of the Danes, Hrothgar. Notably, Beowulf uses his bravery and strength to slay Grendel and later becomes the king, and rules for fifty peaceful years. During his tenure, Beowulf shows the qualities of a good leader by bringing the rich into the kingdom and showing how brave enough he is to put himself first to make sure his people are safe. As a brave warrior, Beowulf protected his people after which he served as an effective leader. A notable incident is his decision to fight the dragon troubling the people despite the adverse risk that he predisposed himself to. Beowulf’s leadership is easily mistaken for something else like fame, power, or glory. Others mistake his bravery as selfishness; he did what he had to do for his people to survive which is clearly not selfish. As such, Beowulf was a good leader because he held high regard for his people and demonstrated wisdom as a king.

Beowulf demonstrates the qualities of a good leader as he holds high regard for his people. According to Loughman and John, integrity is regarded as the supreme quality of an effective leader. Notably, leaders demonstrate integrity by upholding their promises to the people. Besides, integrity ensures that leaders gain respect from their followers. Additionally, leaders thrive when they abide by their values and keep their promises (Loughman and John). In the fiction story, Beowulf demonstrates this by maintaining his promise to provide for the people and protect them from harm. Given the fact that he was fond of speaking highly of himself, he ought to support his claims by demonstrating integrity. The Geats needed a leader they would believe in, a king who held high regard for them. The kingdom finds assurance in Beowulf as he reassures them of peace by demonstrating his courage to defeat any threat. As an effective leader, he is obligated to kill the dragon to reassure the people of his promises. As such, Beowulf’s high regard for his people and self-centeredness make him an ideal leader for the kingdom.

Leaders are required to make rational decisions at the right time as this has a profound impact on the people. Rational decision-making is an important leadership quality as it is critical for effective management. An important aspect for leaders is standing by their decisions to get the best out of them. While Beowulf should have left fighting after becoming a king, he chose to fight the dragon to protect his people. Indeed, this was a major downfall in his leadership attributes but still chose to stand by his decision. Throughout his tenure, he demonstrated effective decision-making skills by leading his people through difficulties. Having progressed as a leader, Beowulf should have let the Danes fight the dragon. While this is a significant flaw, it demonstrates his enduring commitment to the people he served. With this, Beowulf’s leadership quality should not be assessed by the things he could have done but by what he accomplished. Thus, Beowulf demonstrated effective leadership qualities through his decision-making capabilities and commitment to his people.

Often, it is perceived that a good leader is one who is honored and admired by his/her followers. In the Anglo-Saxon culture, kings were well-regarded and looked up to by the people. Similarly, heroes were honored based on their ability to stand up for the king. Beowulf demonstrates his leadership qualities by embodying both of these, heroism and respect. As a young warrior, Beowulf was revered by the people. He demonstrates his wisdom through the experiences he underwent before becoming a king. Notably, leaders are expected to lead their people through difficult situations using diverse approaches. Beowulf demonstrates this by intimidating his enemies and bringing peace and riches to the kingdom. Faced with difficulties, he instilled confidence in his followers, an important leadership attribute that gained respect. Therefore, Beowulf demonstrated his quality as a leader by embodying confidence and heroism which he eventually got respect among his followers.

A leader should be an exceptional figure who displays tremendous bravery and strength emotionally, physically, and mentally. “A leader must be able to look beyond the current situation and over the horizon; leaders who constantly study their environment are better suited to make an informed decision. ( Durant III)”. Beowulf looked beyond himself because he was not only fighting for his town but his people as well. Besides, leaders should hold high regard for their people, abide by their values, and demonstrate commitment and effective decision-making capabilities. These qualities that show in leaders make their followers respect them. The fiction story Beowulf, written by an unnamed author, details the exceptional qualities displayed by the king as he leads his people before his ultimate death while fighting the dragon. In particular, Beowulf held high regard for his people, an attribute that ensured he lived up to his people’s expectations. The Geats needed a leader they would believe in, a king who held high regard for them and they found this in Beowulf. Additionally, he was committed to serving his people by sourcing fortunes and granting them peace for a long period. Moreover, he embodies heroism and respect, important attributes that should be displayed by effective leaders. Therefore, Beowulf was a good leader because he held high regard for his people and demonstrated wisdom as a king.

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Others would feel as if he was more of a greedy person looking for fame and riches in return. They feel as if he was only in this for him to gain out of it. People would go out there way and do anything for fame and money, so this is an example of why others feel as if he was in it for another reason and not to really help others. In the battle between Beowulf and Grendel, Beowulf fights with nothing but his bare hands as if he is trying to glorify himself as a strong man who can do anything. “Then, in a fury, he flung his sword away. The keen, inlaid, worm-hoop-patterned steel was hurled to the ground: he would have to rely on the might of his arm. So must a man who intends to gain enduring glory in combat. Life doesn’t cost him a thought.” (Puchner 1531-1536).

Reading through the poem, the readership is easily carried away by the protagonist’s actions of bravery since the poet tells us a lot about his three victories and much less about the protagonist’s daily life. Whatever is brought to the fore, about how he killed the dragons and his heroic ascension to power are enough embellishments to portray Beowulf as an epic hero. Many of the analyses available all point to the heroics of an ancient Scandinavian hero but very few talk of the shortcomings of the demigod figure among the Geates. “A different approach to the analysis of the ancient poem does much to illustrate Beowulf as a tragic hero rather than an epic hero as many analyses would like to suggest (Buda).”

The philosopher of the old, Aristotle, studied life and summarized that “…it’s better to rise from life as from a banquet, neither thirsty nor drunk.” This quote shows that moderation is good in one’s approach to life. Thirst and drunkenness represent life’s extremes. That against the light of Aristotle’s whatever one does in life should be done in a moderate measure. If one does little, they are doing a disservice to themselves and so do they when they do more than they are expected. Beowulf’s courage was understandable because he was a warrior. If he never had the courage and went to the battlefield, he put the lives of fellow soldiers in danger because he would be doing less than is expected of him and he would be making the adversaries stronger than his own army. However, the extreme application of the same courage is also disastrous because it may lead to dangerous consequences even for the people that the warrior seeks to protect. Beowulf exhibits this trait when his people are attacked by Grendel’s mother in a mission to avenge the death of her son. Beowulf follows the mother dragon to her cradle and from there he suffers a fatal bite wound that leads to his death. Yes, he is celebrated for being a hero but in this case, the archetypes he shows are more of a tragic hero than those of an epic hero (Buda).

The poetic expression of Beowulf’s heroism also points to certain instances when the protagonist’s sense of pride blinds his judgment and merely acts for the sake of keeping his pride. When the mother of Grendel attacks the Gaetes people and then retreats to her hiding place, Beowulf declares that he would be to pursue the battle for the glory of winning is a clear indication that his excessive sense of pride blinded his judgment. Just as Beowulf applied his courage rather excessively, so did he have an excessive sense of pride. Such are the archetypes of tragic heroism. Pride is good; it gives one the confidence to approach life matters and the determination to come out on top of every situation a victor. When applied in moderation, pride is a virtue. However, when pride is applied excessively it becomes a vice and a source of weakness. “Beowulf’s hubris is one major cause for his downfall and a reason for his death. This is enough cause to believe that Beowulf was a tragic hero rather than an epic hero “(Buda).

When the poem is considered under theological lenses, the person of Beowulf can easily be frowned upon by loyal and faithful Christians. “Religion is a source of mystery in the poem Beowulf and a divisive issue among its readers. Christianity plays an ambiguous role in this poem about pagan heroes and monsters, but it is ultimately responsible for the poem’s preservation. (Perrello)”. Some instances in the poem show Beowulf’s reluctance to acknowledge God’s intervention in his actions, especially after a triumph. The poem’s illustration of this trait does much to corroborate the point that Beowulf’s selfish pursuit of glory was a weakness that later led to his failure and if put in biblical contexts, the pride might have led to God’s fury and thus the elimination of Beowulf through Grendel’s mother.

Lastly, Beowulf failed to be the true embodiment of a true leader since his recklessness cost him his life and cost the Gaetisha ruler. When the mother of Grendel attacked his kingdom, Beowulf was already old and his youthful energy had left him. However, despite being in full knowledge of this, Beowulf sought to pursue a losing battle against a tough mother dragon. Had he not pursued the battle and had the interests of the Gaetish people before his own, he would not have died such a shameful death and he would have been available to further rule his people for they loved him very much. This still makes him a hero, just more of a tragic hero. “Because only he is ‘victory-hand’ and thus the most apposite, most powerfully iconic avatar of the required hero-type at the moment when the scoop sings his complicated praises of Beowulf at this pivotal juncture in the Old English hero’s portrayal.” (Abram)

Works Cited

    1. Abram, Christopher. ‘Bee-wolf and the hand of victory: Identifying the heroes of Beowulf and Volsunga saga.’ The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 116, no. 4, 2017, p. 387+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
    2. Buda, Ryan. ‘Beowulf Analysis: Hubris Makes Beowulf A Tragic Hero’. Owlcation, 2019, Accessed 12 Feb 2019.
    3. Durant, James M., III. ‘What is a leader?’ GP Solo, Sept.-Oct. 2016, p. 30+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 14 Feb. 2019.
    4. Loughman, Tom, and John Finley. ‘Beowulf and the Teaching of Leadership.’ Journal of Leadership Education 9.1 (2010): 155-164.
    5. “The Norton Anthology of World Literature.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature; by Martin Puchner, Third ed., B, W.W Norton & amp; Company 2012, pp 147
    6. Perrello, Anthony. “Religion in Beowulf.” Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature, 3-Volume Set, Facts On File, 2010. Bloom’s Literature, Accessed 14 Feb. 2019.

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