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Xenophon's (The Education of Cyrus) And Ideal Leadership: Lessons For Modern Public Administration

Author: JENNIFER O'FLANNERY
Published in PAQ, Vol. 27 No. 1

This article addresses exceptional qualities for ideal leadership in
public service and administration. It argues that discussions of leadership
and civic virtue should include the work of Xenophon, the Greek
philosopher, on public education for public service. A student of
Socrates, Xenophon (430-355 BC) found personal fulfillment and
professional expertise with Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire. His
writings provide a theoretical side of Socrates as well as a practical
view of an effective leadership style found in Ancient Persia. While
Plato wrote on an ideal government led by a philosopher, Xenophon
served as a leader himself and then wrote about the exceptional
qualities of leadership he admired in Cyrus the Great. His key work,
Cyropaedia (Education of Cyrus) explains the virtues and characteristics
of an ideal leader. Education, equality, consensus, justice,
and service to state as well as to the broad-based public are the qualities
embodied in Cyrus the Great. These values have clear implications for
modern public administration. A great body of research has been
developed over the years on leadership but perhaps what public leaders
need most can be found in the writings of a simple, practical, and
virtuous individual, Xenophon who lived 2400 years ago and presented
the exceptional characteristics of ideal leadership in Cyrus of Persia.

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