Comparative Literature

AUP President Celeste Schenck on Leadership and Aggression in Ancient Rome and the Contemporary World

On Tuesday 6 November, the students of FirstBridge 1: Leadership and Aggression in Ancient Rome and the Contemporary World taught by Kate Zhang (IBA) and Jula Wildberger (CL-PL) met with President Celeste Schenck for a conversation on her views and experiences on the topic. The President was a passionate advocate for a leadership model that rejects toxic zero-sum thinking, dividing the world in winners and losers, thus precluding the possibility of meaningful compromise, and relying on one strong, charismatic individual. Leadership for the 21st century, the leadership AUP is teaching to its students, should be a many-centered network, allow for a multiplicity of strong agents, foster mutual respect. This requires empathy and emotional intelligence and a form of generosity associated with gender roles into which women have traditionally been socialized. President Schenck insisted that, nevertheless, both women can be aggressive, toxic leaders, while there is no reason who should not be equally able to embrace a 'feminine' leadership ideal. In this context, the group also talked about the ways in which the race or gender of a leader may shape perceptions and expectations, and how this may restrict the options of leadership styles for a person. In reaction to students' questions the President acknowledged that there were also some positive forms of aggression, or rather assertiveness, in a leader, e.g. decisiveness or clarity.