All Roads Lead to Rome: Leadership Lessons from Antiquity - Harvard Business School MBA Program

All Roads Lead to Rome: Leadership Lessons from Antiquity

Course Number 2053

Visiting Faculty Emma Dench (Professor of the Classics and of History, Harvard College)
Professor Frances Frei
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
13 2-hour sessions
Written exercises

Course Overview

How have our notions of leadership evolved over the years? In this course, we will explore the modern leadership literature alongside some of the most influential readings in history. We will compare and contrast how we think of leadership today against the writings of Julius Caesar, Augustus and Marcus Aurelius to the philosophical reflections of Seneca the Younger (tutor and advisor of the emperor Nero), the historical account of Tacitus and satirical treatments of Lucian. Reading the ancient authors alongside modern leadership literature, we will consider the ways in which these ancient lessons on leadership might be useful in our own society, careers and lives.

The focus of the historical readings will be Rome, which had an overseas empire that lasted in the west for more than 700 years (and for considerably longer in the east). Romans were well known for power and vast organizational structures. Perhaps less well known is that they subjected that same power and those same organizational structures to intense scrutiny, reflecting on the nature of success and its precariousness, the ethics of leadership, the dynamics of power, and how best to prepare the next generation.

In lieu of an exam, there will be concise weekly reflections.

Taught by Frances Frei, HBS and Emma Dench, Harvard Classics and History (