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Ancient Sparta

In ancient times, the societal structure of servants obeying a leader or king was interpreted slightly different in each culture in which it was put into place. Cultures employed the structure of common people, soldiers, or slaves serving under a king in political or military environments in addition to looking to them for guidance in everyday life. In ancient Sparta, citizens followed their king and his decisions as loyally as Spartan soldiers followed their leader into battle. The citizens looked to the king to lead them with decisions that would bring security and prosperity to the people.

The warriors counted on their leader’s skills and role to lead them to victory or glory in battle death. The film “300” illustrates the utilization and benefit of servant leadership through the story of King Leonidas. Leonidas leads the citizens and warriors of Sparta in a fight for freedom in which the servant leadership model plays an indispensable role. The film illustrates how the role of servant and leader was instilled in Spartan warriors. Leonidas is shown being taken from his parents at the age of seven and taught to fight.

The young soldiers are taught to sacrifice their own needs and overcome their own pain for the sake of the country and to follow the order of their leader. Leonidas is turned out into the winter wilderness with only his bravery and fighting skills to keep him alive. This test is to see if he can first lead himself before he is ready to lead others. He must learn to control his actions and emotions before he can be a king and lead his people. He kills a wolf and survives, proving that he was able to be his own leader and use the fighting skills and bravery he has learned to overcome a daunting adversary.

It is interesting to note the Spartan child-rearing structure as it represented in the film. Upon birth, any infants found to have physical defects or deformities are left on a mountain to die. Spartan babies had to be physically perfect to be considered worthy of living in Sparta or becoming a Spartan warrior. At a young age they were taken from their parents, logically their natural leaders. The skills they would have learned from their parents were replaced with continuous training sessions in fighting, honor and leadership.

So natural leadership is replaced by governmental and military leadership to mold the boys into servant warriors fit to serve and fight for Spartan glory. It could be argued, according to this tradition, that the character of Ephialtes is not a real Spartan. He is presented as an example of the result of a lack of leadership in a society so firmly structured around servant leadership. Physically deformed, Ephialtes’ parents fled Sparta with him so he would not be killed as an infant. He did not get the training in leadership, loyalty or servitude that a Spartan warrior would have gotten.

Tolbert and Fisher’s model indicates that an effective leader often benefits and utilizes collaborative leadership because they learn from this kind of leadership as well. Ephialtes only knew what his father taught him in hiding. He was not trained to be a loyal servant to his leader, and as a result he is the only Spartan on the battlefield that turns against Leonidas and betrays him to Xerxes. He takes it as a personal insult when Leonidas tells him he can’t fight with the other Spartans because he can’t protect his fellow soldiers, instead of understanding that Leonidas is acting in the best interest of all of his men.

In contrast to this is the behavior of Dilios, who is removed from the battle after losing an eye. He understands his king’s decisions, remains loyal to Leonidas and carries the story of the 300 Spartans home with him as asked. Dilios has been trained to be a loyal servant to his leader and king, so he puts aside his own pride to do what is requested of him. The juxtaposition of the two characters is an effective illustration of how servant leadership is beneficial if the servant understands and respects the system and the leader.

It’s also a good example of Tolbert and Fisher’s theory that leaders tend to benefit from feedback and receive more of it than non-leaders. Dilios accepted Leonidas’ feedback about where he could best serve Sparta after his injury, and as a result it is Dilios that takes over leading the Spartans after Leonidas is killed. The theory of complex leadership as it relates to servant leadership can be seen in the conversation that Leonidas has with his wife. He is concerned that as a leader and king that he is being asked to not fight the Persians, and she in turn reminds him that he is also a free man, so he should think like one.

Thompson’s theory of transcendental leadership comes into play in the way that Leonidas draws upon his faith, his love of his wife and his country, and his own beliefs about what is right instead of blindly following the advice of the Oracle, as was custom. This scene is also a good example of Leonidas as a complex leader according to Tolbert and Fisher’s theory. He takes feedback from several sources and uses it to form his own conclusion and make his decision. The effects of the presence of servant leadership are most evident during the fighting between the Spartans and the Persians.

The behavior of Leonidas is markedly different than that of his soldiers, and it is that difference that exemplifies him as a leader. On several occasions, Leonidas’ leadership and bravery keep his men from panicking and surrendering. When the Spartans come across a small village that has been massacred by the Persians, the men begin to panic and talk about rumors that the Persians are immortal and can’t be defeated. The soldiers want to give up and go home, but Leonidas reminds them that Spartans never surrender.

This example of leadership is evident again later when the Persian king Xerxes becomes sends elephants and giants to fight the Spartans but they continue to stand their ground because Leonidas is leading them by doing the same. Leonidas’ loyalty to his servant warriors and to Sparta is another element of servant leadership that affects the battle. Xerxes first promises to make Leonidas king and ruler of all of Greece and to make him a god. Then Xerxes threatens Leonidas by saying that all of Sparta will be forgotten and its people will be slaves to the Persians if Leonidas does not surrender and submit.

Leonidas does not give in to either greed or fear, and neither of Xerxes’ tactics works. Leonidas instead tells Xerxes that he would rather fight and die than surrender and live a submissive life. The difference between the two leaders is exemplified when Xerxes says that he would kill any of his men to guarantee a victory, and Leonidas replies that he would die for any of his. Xerxes controls his people through fear of violence and death and they are more slaves than servants. Leonidas leads his servants through encouragement and bravery and by instilling Spartan pride. Xerxes views his slaves and soldiers as disposable.

In contrast, Leonidas faces certain death standing and fighting with his soldiers and calls them, “my children”. He reminds his men that it is, “Spartan law” to fight for freedom and to die for it if necessary, showing his pride in Sparta and his willingness to die to keep Sparta free. His loyalty is shown when is the last Spartan soldier standing and when it takes the arrows of the whole Persian army to finally kill him. The result of his leadership is that his men are proud to fight and die next to him, while Xerxes’ slaves are scared of death and their ruler in equal measure.

They do not respect him. The Persian army is bigger than the Spartan army, but is clearly Leonidas that leads a more effective group, another example of a complex leader according to Tolbert and Fisher. Leonidas remains a leader after his death, and his strength as a leader is shown by the Spartans that follow his words after he is dead. Dilios returns to Sparta and tells them that Leonidas’ dying wish was, “Remember us. Remember why we died. ” The Spartans do this, with tens of thousands of Spartan and Greek soldiers joining to fight against the Persian invasion.

This can be interpreted as another example of the complex leadership theory. Tolbert and Fisher felt that another attribute of this type of leader was the prevalence of positive follower ratings. It is clear by the actions of the soldiers that join up to fight the Persians out of loyalty to him that he is viewed positively by his followers and the Spartan citizens even after his death. Leonidas remains selfless by telling the Spartans to focus on being free instead of erecting monuments and mourning him.

In following his dying wish, the Spartan people continue to follow the servant leadership model. Spartan king Leonidas embodied many attributes of the complex leader presented by Tolbert and Fisher and the Spartan culture in the film was an effective example of the servant leadership structure. It is evident that the presence of servant leadership affected the drama and the result of the actions and battle between the Spartans and the Persians. The Persians clearly outnumbered the Spartans but were subjected to a lack of leadership, thus causing them to reveal weaknesses in their skill and unity.

In contrast, the Spartans were a much smaller army but had stronger and more positive leadership on their side. The result was a battle fought bravely by servant soldiers that fought to the death under the leadership of a man they had no hesitation to die for. Leonidas led them with all the positive skills of a complex leader, and it was that leadership that enabled the Spartans to hold their ground against the Persian forces in the name of freedom. Works Cited Thompson, M. C. The Congruent Life. Hoboken: Jossey-Bass, 2000. 300. Warner Brothers: USA, 2006.

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