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  • From Knights and Squires

The Daily Dick: A Study in Leadership

"'I will have no man in my boat,' said Starbuck, 'who is not afraid of a whale.' By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward."


Melville uses Starbuck as a contrast in leadership style to that of Ahab. Starbuck has 'useful courage.' This seems to imply that Starbuck is courageous when it is advantageous to him or his mission. And, in a bit of heavy foreshadowing, we will see what a truly fearless leader looks like as the book progresses. Somewhere between this 'useful courage' and utter 'fearlessness' is a mid point of leadership. Melville does not portray Starbuck in the fairest light, nor does he under-color the dark shades of Ahab. Perhaps a leader is one who senses danger, but contemplates before reacting. We are certainly in need of a leader who considers threats, not for his own ego, but for the good of all.

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