Values-Based Leadership: Enduring Lessons from the Aeneid

  • Mark Ahn
  • Larry Ettner


This paper explored the Aeneid, Virgil’s foundation epic of the Latin cannon, from a values-based leadership perspective, which is defined as the moral foundation underlying stewardship decisions and actions of leaders. Specifically, we juxtaposed the resonant leadership elements of vision, culture and values – and their corresponding equivalent Roman themes of fatum, pietas, and virtus. Using a thematic analysis approach, we coded the following eight values: integrity, good judgment, leadership by example, decision-making, trust, justice/fairness, humility, and sense of urgency. We found that while the Aeneid extols prototypical values, the epic instructs that truly effective leadership is not about being a monochromatic prototype. Rather, the epic reveals that the essence and privilege of effective leadership demands reflection on the dynamic relationship between the leader and the led towards a better, envisioned future.


Organizational Citizenship Behavior Corporate Culture Servant Leadership Good Judgment Roman People 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aaker, D. (1994). Building a brand: The Saturn story. California Management Review, 36(2), 114–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Accenture. (2001). The evolving role of executive leadership. Retrieved from
  3. Auerbach, C. F., & Silverstein, L. B. (2000). Qualitative data: An introduction to coding and analysis. New York: NY University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bagshaw, M. (1995). Liberating the liberal arts through leadership studies: An essay. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 2(1), 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bass, B., & Avolio, B. (1993). Transformational leadership and organizational culture. Public Administration Quarterly, 17(1), 112–121.Google Scholar
  6. Bass, B. M., & Steidlmeier, P. (1999). Ethics, character, and the authentic transformational leadership behavior. The Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 181–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker, T. (1998). Integrity in organizations: Beyond honesty and conscientiousness. The Academy of Management Review, 23(1), 154–161.Google Scholar
  8. Bell, A. J. E. (1999). The popular poetics and politics of the Aeneid. Transactions of the American Philological Association, 129, 263–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berg, B. L. (1995). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  10. Bloom, H. (2001). A Conversation with literary critic Harold Bloom. Harvard Business Review, 79(5), pp. 63–68.Google Scholar
  11. Blumer, H. (1962). Society as symbolic interaction. In A. M. Rose (Ed.), Human behavior and social process: An interactionist approach. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.Google Scholar
  12. Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bossidy, L. (2007). What your leader expects of you and what you should expect in return. Harvard Business Review, 85(4), 58–65.Google Scholar
  14. Bowers, D. G., & Seashore, S. (1966). Predicting organizational effectiveness with a four-factor theory of leadership. Administrative Science Quarterly, 11(2), 38–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bowra, C. M. (1933). Aeneas and the stoic ideal. Greece and Rome, 3, 8–21.Google Scholar
  16. Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Brunt, P. A., & Moore, J. M. (1967). Res Gestae Divi Augusti: The achievements of the divine Augustus. London: Oxford Press.Google Scholar
  19. Buchko, A. A. (2007). The effect of leadership on values-based management. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 28(1), 36–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  21. Burns, J. M. (1995). Transactional and transforming leadership. In J. T. Wren (Ed.), The leader’s companion (pp. 100–101). New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  22. Cairns, F. (1989). Virgil’s Augustan epic. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cicero. (1928). On the Republic (54 BCE) and On the Laws (52 BCE) (trans: Keyes C.W.). Suffolk: St. Edmundsury Press.Google Scholar
  24. Citrin, J. (2009) Apr. 10. Learning from great leaders. Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved from
  25. Ciulla, J. (1998). Leadership ethics: Mapping the territory. In J. Cillua (Ed.), Ethics, the heart of leadership (pp. 3–24). Westport: Quorum Books.Google Scholar
  26. Coleman, R. (1982). The gods in the Aeneid. Greece and Rome, 29(2), 143–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Collins, J. (2001). Level 5 leadership. Harvard Business Review, 79(1), 66–76.Google Scholar
  28. Collins, J., & Porras, J. (1996). Building your company’s vision. Harvard Business Review, 74(4), 65–77.Google Scholar
  29. Conchie, B. (2004). The demands of executive leadership. The Gallup Management Journal. Retrieved from
  30. Cooley, A. (2009). Res Gestae divi Augusti. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Crabtree, B., & Miller, W. (1999). A template approach to text analysis: Developing and using codebooks. In B. Crabtree & W. Miller (Eds.), Doing qualitative research (pp. 163–177). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Dirks, K. T., & Ferrin, D. L. (2002). Trust in leadership: Meta-analytic findings and implications for research and practice. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 611–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Earl, D. (1967). The moral and political tradition of Rome. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Edwards, M. W. (1960). The expression of stoic ideas in the Aeneid. Phoenix, 14(3), 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Eichholz, D. E. (1968). Symbol and contrast in the Aeneid. Greece & Rome, 15(2), 105–112.Google Scholar
  37. Faber, R. (2000). Vergil’s ‘Shield of Aeneas’ and the “Shield of Heracles”. Mnemosyne, 53(1), 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Faules, D. F., & Alexander, D. C. (1978). Communication and social behavior: A symbolic interaction perspective. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  39. Fuhrer, T. (1989). Aeneas: A study in character development. Greece and Rome, 36(1), 63–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Gale, M. R. (1997). The shield of Turnus. Greece and Rome, 44(2), 176–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Galinsky, K. (1996). August culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Garaventa, E. (1998). Shakespeare’s Henry V: Fifteenth century Monarch, twentieth century leader. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 4(3), 162–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Gardner, J. (1995). The cry for leadership. In J. T. Wren (Ed.), The leader’s companion (pp. 3–7). New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  44. Garg, G., & Krishnan, V. R. (2003). Transformational leadership and organizational structure: The role of value-based leadership. In S. Bhargava (Ed.), Transformational leadership: Value-based management for Indian organizations (pp. 82–100). New Delhi: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Glader, P. (2009). December 14. GE’s Immelt to cite lessons learned. The Wall Street Journal. p. B2.Google Scholar
  46. Gouillart, F., & Kelly, J. (1995). Transforming the organization. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  47. Green, J. (2009). November 11. Whitacre, critical of GM change pace, pressures CEO. Bloomberg. Retrieved from
  48. Hahn, E. A. (1931). Pietas versus violentia in the Aeneid. The Classical Weekly, 25(2), 9–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Hammond, M. (1933). The Augustan principate in theory and practice during the Julio-Claudian period. New York: Russell & Russell.Google Scholar
  50. Hardie, P. R. (1985). Imago mundi: Cosmological and ideological aspects of the shield of Achilles. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 105, 11–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Hesselbein, F. (2010). Leadership by example. Leader to Leader, 59, 4–7. Winter.Google Scholar
  52. Holland, R. (2004). Augustus: Godfather of Europe. Gloucestershire: Sutton.Google Scholar
  53. House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies: Global leadership and organizational behavior effectiveness research program. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  54. Kay, J. (1995). Why firms succeed. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Khilji, S., Davis, E., & Cseh, M. (2010). Building competitive advantage in a global environment: Leadership and the mindset. In T. Devinney, T. Pedersen, & L. Tihanyi (Eds.), The past, present and future of international business & management (Advances in international management, Vol. 23, pp. 353–373). Bingley: Emerald Group.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Korfmacher, W. C. (1956). Vergil, spokesman for the Augustan reforms. The Classical Journal, 51(7), 329–334.Google Scholar
  57. Kotter, J. (1990). A force for change: How leadership differs from management. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  58. Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Free Press.Google Scholar
  59. Leebaert, D. (2006). To dare & conquer. New York: Little, Brown & Co.Google Scholar
  60. MacKay, L. A. (1963). Hero and theme in the Aeneid. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 94, 157–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Majer, K. (2005). Values-based leadership: A revolutionary approach to business success and personal prosperity. Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies, 10(1), 42–43.Google Scholar
  62. Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1989). Designing qualitative research. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  63. Martin, A., & Ernst, C. (2005). Exploring leadership in times of paradox and complexity. Corporate Governance, 5(3), 82–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Maxwell, J. A. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interpretive approach. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  65. Mayer, R. C., Davis, J. H., & Schoorman, F. D. (1995). An integrative model of organizational trust. The Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 709–734.Google Scholar
  66. McGushin, P. (1964). Virgil and the spirit of endurance. American Journal of Philology, 85(3), 225–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Messick, D. M., & Bazerman, M. H. (1996). Ethical leadership and the psychology of decision making. Sloan Management Review, 37(2), 9–22.Google Scholar
  68. Messick, D., & Bazerman, M. (2001). Ethical leadership and the psychology of decision making. Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, 3, 213–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Miller, F. J. (1928). Vergil’s motivation of the Aeneid. The Classical Journal, 24(1), 28–44.Google Scholar
  70. Mills, C. (2002). The hidden dimension of blue-collar sense-making about workplace communication. Journal of Business Communication, 39(1), 288–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Moerk, E. L. (1998). From war-hero to villain: Reversal of the symbolic value of war and a warrior king. Journal of Peace Research, 35(4), 453–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Moorman, R. H., Niehoff, B. P., & Organ, D. W. (1993). Treating employees fairly and organizational citizenship behavior: Sorting the effects of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and procedural justice. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 6, 209–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Morwood, J. (1991). Aeneas, Augustus, and the theme of the city. Greece & Rome, 38(2), 212–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Moss Reimers, J., & Barbuto, J. E. (2002). A framework exploring the effects of the Machiavellian disposition on the relationship between motivation and influence tactics. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 9(2), 29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. O’Toole, J. (1995). The executive’s compass: Business and the good society. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Ovid. (1916). Metamorphoses (trans: Miller, F.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Paine, L. S. (1994). Managing for organizational integrity. Harvard Business Review, 72(2), 106–117.Google Scholar
  78. Parry, K. W., & Proctor-Thomson, S. B. (2002). Perceived integrity of transformational leaders in organizational settings. Journal of Business Ethics, 35(2), 75–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Quint, D. (1989). Epic and empire. Comparative Literature, 41(1), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Richmond, J. A. (1976). Symbolism in Virgil: Skeleton key or will-o’-the-wisp? Greece and Rome, 23(2), 142–158.Google Scholar
  81. Ruggeri, A. (2009). Jim Senergal: Costco CEO focuses on employees. US New & World Report. Retreived from
  82. Senge, P. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York: Double Day.Google Scholar
  83. Silverman, D. (1993). Interpreting qualitative data: Methods for analysing talk, text and interaction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  84. Smiley, P. O. R. (1948). In the steps of Aeneas. Greece and Rome, 17(51), 97–103.Google Scholar
  85. Tetenbaum, T. J. (1999). Beating the odds of merger and acquisition failure: Seven key practices that improve the chance for expected integration and synergies. Organizational Dynamics, 28(2), 22–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Tetlock, P. E. (1992). Good judgment in international politics: Three psychological perspectives. Political Psychology, 13(3), 517–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Thomas, D. (1993). Business sense: Exercising management’s five freedoms. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  88. Thomas, T., Schermerhorn, J., & Dienhart, J. W. (2004). Strategic leadership of ethical behavior in business. The Academy of Management Executive, 18(2), 56–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Tichy, N. & Bennis, W. (2007). Making the tough call. Inc, 29, 36–38.Google Scholar
  90. Tichy, N., & Bennis, W. (2010). Wise judgment. Leadership Excellence, 27(5), 5–6.Google Scholar
  91. Tichy, N. M., & Ulrich, D. O. (1984). The leadership challenge–A call for the transformational leader. Sloan Management Review, 26, 59–58.Google Scholar
  92. Toll, K. (1997). Making Roman-Ness and the “Aeneid”. Classical Antiquity, 16(1), 34–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Trevino, L. K. (1986). Ethical decision making in organizations: A person-situation interactionist model. The Academy of Management Review, 11(3), 601–617.Google Scholar
  94. Van Lee, R., Fabish, L., & McGaw, N. (2005). The value of corporate values. Strategy Business, 39, 1–14.Google Scholar
  95. Virgil (1983). The Aeneid. (R. Fitzgerald, Trans.). New York: Random House. (Original work published c. 20 BCE).Google Scholar
  96. West, D. (1994). In the wake of Aeneas. Greece and Rome, 41(1), 57–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Whyte, D. (1994). The heart aroused. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  98. Wilson, J. R. (1969). Action and emotion in Aeneas. Greece and Rome, 16(1), 67–75.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Atkinson Graduate School of ManagementWillamette UniversitySalemUSA

Personalised recommendations