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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Some thoughts about Aragorn and leadership
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noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 9, 4:27pm

Post #1 of 67 (3487 views)
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Some thoughts about Aragorn and leadership Can't Post

In brief: things would probably go well if Aragorn were your boss, whereas lots of other fictional heroes would crash and burn themselves or those around them, if they weren't a sort of wish-fulfillment of the author or reader.

Quote
"There is a pathological mismatch between the qualities that seduce us in a leader and those that are needed to be an effective leader. Based on research on the psychology of leadership, Chamorro-Premuzic shows that if leaders were selected on competence rather than confidence, humility rather than charisma, and integrity rather than narcissism, we would not just end up with more competent leaders, but also more women leaders."

Abstract of an interesting (10 min) TEDx talk "Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?" by Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who is the Chief Talent Scientist at Manpower Group, co-founder and CEO of DeeperSignals and Metaprofiling, and Professor of Business Psychology at both University College London, and Columbia University. [link to this talk on YouTube]

"competence, humility and integrity" sounds like Aragorn to me. He is realistic about his (significant) abilities, but lets others speak or lead when they are better qualified. He does not need relentlessly to push forward his own worth or personal agenda - he can consider what others need, or just wait. He is 'entitled' in a literal sense of having titles ("I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar the Elfstone, Dunadan. The heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again!") but not in the modern sense of "feeling that you have the right to do or have what you want without having to work for it or deserve it, just because of who you are." (definition from Cambridge Dictionary)

I've been thinking that a lot of fictional heroes aren't like that. They take exaggerated risks. They are arrogant, insubordinate, 'maverick' and if women find them irresistible, that's just something to be taken advantage of, without much concern for the consequences. Their self-confidence, charisma and narcissism works while there is an author or scriptwriter spinning the universe for their benefit (and, I suppose for our benefit as readers indulging how we'd like to be so totally brilliant and lovable/powerful that we could get away with being as obnoxious as we liked). But they would be no fun to be around in real life.

See also: The Toast: Portraits Of Lord Byron, In Order Of Lord Byron-ness (ďHello, are you Greece, I am here to run your army? Donít worry, Iím a poet. Thank you for the gifts I assume are on their way.Ē)

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


squire
Half-elven


Jun 9, 8:04pm

Post #2 of 67 (3241 views)
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It's an interesting idea. Could we review some examples? [In reply to] Can't Post

"A lot of fictional heroes..."

I'm not really doubting you, but as fiction is not my primary reading mode I'm not quickly coming up with some book heroes who are "arrogant, insubordinate, 'maverick'," and callously manipulative of infatuated women. But I bet if you gave half a dozen examples we'd have a real discussion here. (I'm skipping the TED talk as I gather he's talking about real-world leaders).



squire online:
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CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 9, 9:03pm

Post #3 of 67 (3225 views)
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Ah, the colonoscopy doc strikes again [In reply to] Can't Post

This link will work for the Lord Byron site. (original was missing a colon; Wiz, I think you crossed a Greek god in disguise, and this is your enduring curse.)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 9, 9:37pm

Post #4 of 67 (3220 views)
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Aragorn vs Feanor? [In reply to] Can't Post

Feanor scores 10/10 on self-confidence, charisma and narcissism, and he seems the sort of leader that would be popular on social media. Reckless, vain, talented in some ways (oh, those Silmarils!), and so focused on himself he didn't care what happened to others. So people follow him into a Kinslaying of their formerly friendly neighbors and kin, and then follow him out of utopia to a doomed, endless war (an exaggerated risk). It's a telling point about his narcissim that when he had the foresight on death's door that the war against Morgoth was doomed to failure, he still urged his sons to fight on, because it was his war, his oath, and his legacy, no matter how corrupt and stupid it was.

It's interesting that the TED talk mentioned that great leaders are actually pretty boring people. That would be Finarfin, the dullest of the 3 sons of Finwe, who had that boring sense of "This is wrong!" and led a remnant of the Noldor back to Tirion, where rather than being butchered in Beleriand led quiet, prosperous, normal lives. Tolkien puts him in a good light, but is he interesting to write about? Nooooooo. It's the messed up heroes that make for good stories (Turin, anyone?).

Outside of Tolkien, you can throw Paris of Troy into that category too--selfishly running off with Helen and igniting a war that doomed his city. But he brought home a prize, didn't he? So Troy rallied around him. When the smart move would have been to give her back rather than have his city destroyed, he was unyielding. Another exaggerated risk.

I was thinking of Boromir vs Faramir as a dichotomy, but it didn't really hold up. Both were great leaders whose followers loved them, and Boromir wasn't as smart or humble, but he still had integrity. So maybe think of Denethor vs Faramir, and then Denethor's arrogance and narcissism contrast sharply with his son's more quiet confidence. Or contrast Denethor and Gandalf during the siege of Gondor, and think of how not all men would follow Gandalf (humble, principled, on the front lines), and some still adhered to the crazy old guy with the title hiding upstairs and muttering about how everyone would/should die. As Tomas said in the video, we followers need to be more thoughtful about how we pick our leaders and not go with superficial crowd appeal.



squire
Half-elven


Jun 9, 9:55pm

Post #5 of 67 (3222 views)
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And are 'Leaders' (as per the TED talk: politicians and business managers) the same as 'Heroes' (legendary solo warriors)? [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree we can conceive of overlap here, but you made the jump quite explicitly from non-fiction bosses at a technology company to heroes in fantasy fiction.

The jump wasn't super clear because Aragorn happens to be a heroic character in LotR who goes on to become a superb leader. Were your egotistical braggarts in other fiction also kings, or just heroes ('just' - ha ha)?



squire online:
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Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Dunadan of North Arnor
Bree

Jun 10, 3:40am

Post #6 of 67 (3194 views)
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Off the top of my head, and with varying degrees of leadership/arrogance/womanizing... [In reply to] Can't Post

James Bond, James T Kirk, Tony Stark, Conan, Sir Lancelot, Don Quixote, Daniel Dravot, Indiana Jones, Namor, Colonel Hogan, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, William T Riker...

And that's not including any Tolkien characters.


(This post was edited by Dunadan of North Arnor on Jun 10, 3:54am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 10, 12:54pm

Post #7 of 67 (3115 views)
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That's a good list, thanks.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 10, 1:28pm

Post #8 of 67 (3125 views)
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Jim Kirk was the first to come to my mind when I thought outside Tolkien. [In reply to] Can't Post

Excellent list--thanks!


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 10, 2:16pm

Post #9 of 67 (3114 views)
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yes and no [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
And are 'Leaders' (as per the TED talk: politicians and business managers) the same as 'Heroes' (legendary solo warriors)?


I'm sure it's possible to be a hero without being a leader, and a leader without being a hero. But I don't think I'm confusing two totally separate things (such as bananas and baseball bats) and so coming to a facile conclusion (such as 'bananas make poor baseball bats').

The reason I don't think this is that heroes are not necessarily just 'legendary solo warriors'. I appreciate that if that definition is the one adopted then necessarily heroes can't be leaders just by simple logic (because solo efforts by definition don't involve leading anyone).

Since there are few areas in life where someone can achive things totally alone (or so it seems to me), I would say than many hereos have proved heroic or otherwise whilst in a leadership role. Thus their decisions and actions have the capacity to rebound upon others as well on the themselves, adn affect whether they end up being admired.

I was intending 'hero' in the sense of 'a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities' (as per Oxford dictionary online). Or something like that.


Are the problems faced by business leaders and modern politicians the same as those faced by heroes (in the sense of admirable/noble people)? I'd say 'yes and no'. No in a literal sense because storytellers contrive high-stakes and sometimes fantastical situations in which characters can demonstrate heroism, so as to make a satisfying story. Clearly then, a business person or politican is unlikely to face exactly those situations, or even anything much like them. But I also say Yes (in a wider sense) because I think we're talking about how people try to avoid undesirable and troublesome situations from arising in the first place, and how they cope with any perils and crisies that do arise anyway.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 10, 3:43pm

Post #10 of 67 (3112 views)
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"great leaders are actually pretty boring people" [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that's it.

Real life effective leadership often looks boring

Heroes in fiction often have to be exciting.

Sometimes in real life, boring but effective leadership has proved insufficient, and some emergency and crisis arises. But...

The sort of person who Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says ends up inappropriately in charge causes emergencies and crises. They do this either through their incompetence (including excessive risk-taking or laxity about finding out what the situation actually is) or because crisis and emergency gives them opportunities to futher their own personal advancement. I think that, given a whole lot of energy, shamelessness, relentlessness, and a complete indifference to the consequences for other people, such a person can thrive on chaos. The effort they are supposed to be leading will do less well. Order Ė laws, rules, morals Ė are good for the organisation (or nation, culture, expedition or whatever) and promote the steady undramatic leadership that (Dr Tomas finds) is actually effective, but are probably a mere hinderance for a narcisist-in-charge who needs opportunities to appear heroic.

If shown more fully such a person is an antihero, tragic hero, Byronic hero or something like that. Superficially (if the story or script supports their actions and makes their plans work out) they're the Cowboy Cop:



Quote
Sure, our society may be built upon rules and procedures, but they usually make for bad television. Sometimes you have to bend the rules, rough up the suspects, moon your supervisors and shred the Constitution to get stuff done.


https://tvtropes.org/...i.php/Main/CowboyCop


And, what I was meaning to point out as interesting is that Tolkien does characters (such as Aragorn) who aren't like that, and show strengths that might actually work in real life.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 10, 3:45pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 10, 3:46pm

Post #11 of 67 (3102 views)
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James T Kirk - the original hero with a KAAAAHN!!-do attitude // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 10, 5:22pm

Post #12 of 67 (3086 views)
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'bananas make poor baseball bats' --now you tell me! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 10, 5:32pm

Post #13 of 67 (3094 views)
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Are you calling Aragorn boring?? [In reply to] Can't Post

Just kidding.

I was thinking about Frodo as the leader of the little 3-hobbit band from Emyn Muil to Cirith Ungol. He periodically expressed self-doubt, which leaders aren't supposed to do because that's seen as weakness by the general public, which prefers cocky leaders. That self-doubt is linked to both his humility and his sense of responsibility to do what's right--not just take the Ring to Mt Doom, but give Gollum a chance to redeem himself rather than kill him.

A good leader puts a check on the id of his followers, so he didn't let Sam kill Gollum. But a good leader also mediates conflict in the community, and Frodo did next to nothing to reign in Sam's insults about Gollum, not even a parental "If you have nothing nice to say about Gollum, Sam, then just don't say anything about him." But no leader is perfect.


Solicitr
Rohan

Jun 10, 8:01pm

Post #14 of 67 (3080 views)
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Which [In reply to] Can't Post

is why I've always thought Sisko was the most effective of the ST captains. (Picard may not be a womanizer, but he's got arrogance and to spare.)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 10, 8:09pm

Post #15 of 67 (3069 views)
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Sisko gets high marks for humility and quiet competence. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


sparrowruth
Rivendell


Jun 10, 11:33pm

Post #16 of 67 (3056 views)
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Wiz, i think your link is broken [In reply to] Can't Post

or at least it wouldn't work for me. and i would greatly like to read the article in question

EDIT: oh, nevermind. I see CuriousG has given a working link


(This post was edited by sparrowruth on Jun 10, 11:34pm)


CMackintosh
The Shire

Jun 12, 10:26am

Post #17 of 67 (2904 views)
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Expression of War Experience [In reply to] Can't Post

I suspect Tolkien got his views of good leadership initially from his guardian, the priest who took care of him and his brother after their mother died; then that got sharpened rather abruptly during his war experience. I think he would've agreed wholeheartedly with Siegfried Sassoon:
The General


"Good morning, good morning," the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of them dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
"He's a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

* * *
But he did for them both with his plan of attack.


Denmark Hill Hospital, April 1917


Siegfried Sassoon really digs into those "leaders" who fail to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Tolkien shows us Theoden, who takes responsibility, then he shows us Denethor, who fails to take responsibility, except at the very last when he chooses to burn his son Faramir in despair.


(This post was edited by CMackintosh on Jun 12, 10:29am)


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 16, 9:53am

Post #18 of 67 (2565 views)
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Aragorn v Turin [In reply to] Can't Post

I Think that one could make a good comparison between Aragorn and Turin. They are similar in many ways but seem to come out very different. Both are warriors, leaders, good in the wild, valiant fight the bad guy, yet Aragorn manages to come out on top whereas Turin makes all the wrong choices, he seems to be cursed, well he is cursed I suppose. Thinking about it, they both have a father/son style relationship with an Elven chief, ThingoI wtih Turin, Elrond with Aragorn. wonder if there was any difference in the personality, approach, tactics of the two which made Aragorn life so much more successful.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 17, 8:47am

Post #19 of 67 (2459 views)
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Thatís a good comparison! [In reply to] Can't Post

I notice that Turin has a nasty temper, and that leaders who canít control themselves sometimes undermine themselves.

And youíre right HG: Turin is cursed (whether thereís really some mechanisms that harms his choices and chances, or whether characters behave as if that were true, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy).

Maybe Aragorn is also the subject of fate - ďmeant to be KingĒ as Gandalf might say. How that affects his choices and chances is, of course, also debatable.

My own sense (for what itís worth) is itís not inevitable that Aragorn will end up as the restoring king, & so his choices (in how he acts, and in how he leads others) matter. Itís speculation (but possibly fun speculation) whether he could perfectly well have ended up as a dead ranger in a ditch, or whether some Fate demands he become king, but the circumstances (briefly a Ringlord-king? Despot leading an army of the Dead? Rightful king restored?) are down to him.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 17, 2:14pm

Post #20 of 67 (2432 views)
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Another go at that last bit.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Re-reading my last sentence, I see it's a very tangled one. What I meant was:

I think you could argue that Aragorn is 'meant ' to be King, just as Fate stalks (or is thought to stalk) Turin. But I don't think this means that things are bound to end up as they do whatever Aragorn or anyone else does.Therefore, Aragorn's decisions matter, and that includes the leadership decisions he makes.

How else could it have ended up, if Aragorn had made different decisions, had different luck etc?. I don't know, of course! Maybe he could have ended up dead in a ditch, or maybe he could have ended up as King, but less happily. For example, he might have briefly been a Ringlord King, or he might have abused the power he had over the Oathbreakers (or perhaps you can devise some other alternative that pleases you more).
It seems to me that wise people in Middle-earth look for odd things to turn up, and then are very careful about the choices they make (think of Gildor's reaction to meeting Frodo, for example; or Aragorn's reluctance to tell Frodo what to do at Parth Galen). So I suspect that Powers affect what is going on in Middle -earth and provide hints in this way. Possibly JRR came up with this idea of how things worked within Middle-earth late on. I don't know whether that means we should look at the plot of Turin that way too, given that it is a much earlier story that LOTR.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


hanne
Lorien

Jun 17, 5:24pm

Post #21 of 67 (2420 views)
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Aragornís fate [In reply to] Can't Post

I think one of the things that made Aragorn the fated and legitimate restorer was that his bloodline was unbroken, unlike Gondorís. Father to son straight from Earendil and Elros. So if the restoration was mean to be at all, then none of them could become a dead Ranger in a ditch until they had had a son.

Meeting Arwen affected this deeply for Aragorn Ė he would wed no one else, but he couldnít wed her until he was King. And if he had abandoned her for another wife, he would have been less worthy of kingship. So if everything hadnít worked out the way it did, the line would have broken either way Ė through a break in the bloodline, or through a break in the morality of the King. So it was either him or nothing?

Was meeting Arwen one of those odd things to turn up? There was his motherís prophecy too, so there were at least two hints of meant to be.


Dunadan of North Arnor
Bree

Jun 18, 1:06pm

Post #22 of 67 (2154 views)
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A good character study [In reply to] Can't Post

would be to switch the roles/personages of Aragorn and Turin, and decide how different their fates would be.

Aragorn has a tremendous amount of luck on his side in his lifetime, relatively speaking, while Turinís luck is miserable, in fact fatefully horrible over the course of his life. But they both have a distinguished pedigree, and live by a code of honour.

Some mistakes, some elves, some dark enemies, and some women, may be different in each case, but in a complete and total role reversal? Not so sure we end up in vastly different scenarios...


(This post was edited by Dunadan of North Arnor on Jun 18, 1:08pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 5:22pm

Post #23 of 67 (1205 views)
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So would that be like switching Macbeth and Hamlet? [In reply to] Can't Post

How the Shakespeare exercise works, I believe is like this:
  • Hamlet (now standing in for Macbeth in the plot of Macbeth) ,is told all sorts of interesting things about his future by the witches. He then proceeds to overthink and dither about the nature of fate, prognostication luck etc. until something else decides everything.
  • Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (now visiting the plot of Hamlet in the place of Hamlet and Ophelia) hear the revelation that Hamlet's father was murdered by his uncle Claudius. They react by killing Claudius promptly and efficiently, which might be little more than he deserves.
The idea (as I understand it) is to demonstrate that character (or character flaws) are key in Shakespearean tragedy.

Not sure I know the Turin story well enough to say what Turin (now standing in for Aragorn in the plot of LOTR) would do. Possibly his insistence at Bree that if he wanted the Ring he could take it becomes a practical demonstration, after which he sort of atones for four dead hobbits by undertaking a series of adventures that lead to Mordor. There he throws himself and the Ring into the fire, in remorse at having discovered that Gollum was his sister all along.
Or possibly not.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Solicitr
Rohan

Jun 20, 12:30am

Post #24 of 67 (1159 views)
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However, [In reply to] Can't Post

I read Turin's story less as Shakespearean tragedy than Greek. Like Oedipus, he's hosed no matter what he does. Even if he's as nice and kind and humble as Finrod.


kzer_za
Lorien

Jun 20, 1:33am

Post #25 of 67 (1155 views)
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I don't agree with the interpretation that Turin was just a helpless victim of the curse [In reply to] Can't Post

Certainly some bad things happen that are outside of his control like killing Beleg and Glaurung's antics, and he is not without some admirable qualities. But he also brings quite a lot on himself through his own foolishness and many character flaws (some of which he shares with his mother). It's both-and. Nargothrond falls because of his stubbornness and pride, for one.

Also, doesn't it say at one point that Morgoth was afraid his curse might fail? That doesn't sound like an absolute immutable decree.


(This post was edited by kzer_za on Jun 20, 1:45am)

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