Aragorn vs Denethor: Runner, Manager or Leader?

Denethor vs Aragorn  I have to confess that I am fascinated by the leadership profiles that Tolkien provides in his books. My original listing of some of those profiles can be found in a previous post here.

Today I wanted to look at these two characters, each vying for the leadership of Gondor. If you’re not familiar with the story… well, this won’t mean quite as much to you, so I won’t go into too much background detail. But read on and see how you decide.

Suffice to say that Denethor has been ruling Gondor as Steward for years. Aragorn is the  rightful heir to the throne and while he does not come to claim that throne outright he does have his sites set on restoring the kingdom.

I previously listed their leadership profiles as follows:

DenethorSteward of Gondor

  1. Leads out of a fortress mentality
  2. Leads out of ancient traditions
  3. Leads out of militant participation ( I gave him credit for possible past performance. We do NOT see this in LOTR)
  4. Leads out of an ego that forgets limitations and boundaries
  5. Succumbs to temptation and evil in the end

AragornKing in exile

  1. Leads out of patience and longsuffering.
  2. Leads with an acute knowledge of the mistakes of his predecessors.
  3. Leads with a sense of timing and purpose.
  4. Leads as a decisive participant.
  5. Inspires others to greatness (I gave him credit for where he ends up)


If you recall we also loosely defined our three leadership personalities as follows:

Runner: Knows the top line goal, knows the bottom line performance needed to stay viable, often changes strategy mid race in order to accomplish the one or stay ahead of the other. We RUN organizations.

Manager: Keeps the processes running like clock work and thus can be invisible until problems arise, solves problems, likes things to run smoothly. We MANAGE processes.

Leader:Thinks people development first, often is less adept at managing upward, can sometimes less process slip. We LEAD people.

So, with what you know about Denethor and Aragorn which personality would you say they each work out of most often?


He rules Gondor with a bit of an iron fist but he has too in the time when we meet him due to the demands of war. He states that he wants things to remain as they always have in the days of his fathers before him. He is quick to act even spending the lives of his own sons in defense of the city. He reacts to what he “sees” in the Palantir and eventually succumbs to the threat on his border, committing suicide and attempting filicide. (killing of his own son)

He knows the ultimate goal, defeat Sauron. He knows the bottom line, things the way they used to be, and he radically changes strategies in order to cope throwing his people into chaos. I’d label him as a Runner.


He starts off quite aloof seeming to merely be following Gandalf’s instructions to look for and aid the hobbits. It is almost as though he doesn’t want to be bothered but would rather maintain his anonymity until he is told it is time not to by either Gandalf of perhaps Elrond. Eventually he comes around to showing a different side of himself as he comes closer to resuming his throne.

He has managed process for years and stayed invisible. He’d rather not be bothered with people (hobbits), he waits patiently for the time to be right to solve the problem. Clearly he starts out as a Manager.


What is fascinating to watch in Aragorn is his transformation from Manager to Leader. The shift that happens in how he relates and thinks once he starts operating from this new perspective. By the time we get to the end he is clearly working from a Leader personality indeed!

Try reading the book again, or watching the film, through this lens and see if you can spot all the ways in which Aragorn goes from working out of a Manager personality and shifts to s Leader personality!

Did you label them as I did?

Which personality types did you pick, and why?




Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply