Leadership in a Movie Based on the Theories and Concepts From the Book Capstone Project

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Leadership Movie

Organizational Leadership According to 12 Angry Men

Organizational theory and academic business discourse examine, amongst a host of other key organizational principles, the formal idea that leadership is an essential part of effective management, or, for that matter, an essential part of comprising an effective contribution to any working team. However, like many academic concepts which do not easily make the leap into real world applicability, this theoretical conception of leadership is just that, and in practice, this type of educational content and perspective is actually quite a bit less relevant than the curricula of formal education might argue.

While leadership is unquestionably an inborn talent that can be honed and improved, it is nonetheless an individualized talent and therefore both rarified and special. Such is to say that the dually important aspects of experience and ability are those which cannot be taught in an academic context. Especially in the organizational sense, one must gather and sharpen these respective qualities, suggesting that leadership theory bears only a passing relationship to those instincts and principles which one must know or of which one must be capable in order to function successfully in an organizational leadership role. When one is faced with actual challenges, true leaders will rise to surface and initiate the process by which others may accomplish their goals. As the discussion hereafter on both leadership theory and its role within the context of a classic film will reveal, leadership is proven in the space between difficulty and resolution.

The 1957 Sidney Lumet directed classic 12 Angry Men, the film adaptation of a stage drama from a few years prior, is centered logistically and physically around an uncomfortably diverse set of individuals with a common goal of achieving a jury verdict in a murder trial. Representing the greatest of organizational challenges, the plot forces these 12 instinctively conflicting personalities into the suffocating quarters of a shrinking jury deliberation room. The setting is consumed by a wilting pressure, as the jurors are isolated together on a sweltering summer day with the difficult task of assessing the terrible allegation at hand. Lumet's film is, on the one hand, an excellent discourse on morality and duty amongst a diversity of caricatures. To another extent though, the work is a study on organizational behavior, producing a setting in which undefined roles are gradually filled by a combination of necessity and individual instinct.

Amongst the men collectively assigned to the task, numerous organizational roles begin to form and shift, with leaders, followers, thinkers and bullies occupying various positions throughout. Though all are moved to address the same problem, each perceives it according to a perspective tied to his own experiences. The task of reaching a verdict on the basis of evidence would require collaboration, but these prejudices and personal distinctions render this a continually elusive goal. Here, the relationship which develops between the leadership impulses of Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) and the misplaced anger of Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb) helps to demonstrate the ways in which group dynamics can ultimately help to yield otherwise unclear common ground.

Before proceeding with a further consideration of the film due for analysis, we consider some leadership theories which may be used to parallel the events as they unfolded in the Lumet film. Particularly, the Yuki text is a rich source for insights on the various charges and functions of leadership. As per the introduction provide here above, Yuki addresses the necessary balance in leadership objectives between academic formalism and instinctual responsiveness to a presented situation. Yuki contends that though leadership is subject to many definitional variations which make its true meaning rather difficult to ascertain, "most definitions of leadership reflect the assumption that it involves a process whereby intentional influence is exerted over other people to guide, structure, and facilitate activities and relationships in a group or organization." (Yuki, 3) Certainly, this is the role filled by the key juror and protagonist of the film.

It becomes clear quite immediately that leaders and followers are not strictly defined by their willingness to exercise power, but perhaps more by their varying senses of duty to assume this where structure conditions call for such initiative. This is embodied by the narrative's protagonist, who shows himself to be naturally imbued with a devotion to the propriety of the cause before the collective of men. The eventual emergence of Juror #8, played to the appropriate level of noble complexity by Fonda, illustrates that leadership is a capacity which comes with reason, communication and focus. This is a distinct characterization from the founding of leadership in aggression or overbearing authority. Quite to the point, an important feature of the leadership which Fonda's character assumes is that this is done both in the midst of conflict and under the threat of mutiny.

Serving to the incitement of this threat, Cobb plays, in Juror #3, an uncertain and quick-to-anger member of the jury who seems at many points resistant to the idea that he is in dereliction of his duty by allowing personal prejudice to define his approach to the case. This dynamic is a strand of the crisis between the jurors, with #8 and #3 at odds over how the case should be addressed. We are assisted in understanding how such divergent players would gradually achieve consensus by secondary literature, which denotes that "threats to ethical decision making in crisis situations, requires a definition of an ethical decision (as opposed to an unethical decision)." (Christensen & Kohls, 332) in this case, it would be clear that through ignorance rather than intent, Juror #3 represented an obstruction to the ethical carriage of justice. It would require the efforts of Juror #8 to help establish a clearer definition thereof.

It is here that the Juror would prove himself a natural leader, finding a way to both guide the collective through a complex, multi-party conflict and by helping individual members of the temporally gathered organization navigate their own feelings toward a resolution. This comports with the approach to leadership espoused in the text by Yuki. This reports that there are various methods specific to the leadership role which can be used to help individuals group members toward the required unanimity. Yuki reports that "participative leadership, delegation, and empowerment are subjects that bridge the power and behavior approaches to leadership. The research on participative leadership and delegation emphasizes the leader's perspective on power sharing." (Yuki, 87)

This denotes that the natural leader will assume this role of delegation by recognizing and carefully navigating the personality traits and behavioral tendencies both unique to specific organizational members and permeating the developing organizational culture. With respect to the organizational behavior apparent in the film, the critical viewer is inclined to consider the interesting pressure which is placed upon such a leader as Juror #8. This character must attempt to levy a minority influence over a group of individuals mostly inclined by the desire to go home to cast their votes with relative unanimity. In the face of eleven guilty votes, #8 felt that he had no choice but to enter a not guilty vote, bearing in mind the singular duty of the jury. It was his contention that the primary objective here was not, as some had clearly seen it, to end this case with expediency, but instead to determine whether the defendant was guilty 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' This language represents the mission statement of the organization formed by the twelve person jury. Juror #8 was the only individual to administrate the pursuit of this goal and, in a fashion that is reflective of the challenges potentially common to any working environment, was forced to do so in the face of hostile opposition, oppressive external circumstances and various informational challenges. Instead of seeking to render each of these challenges to obscurity or allowing them to derail the organization from achieving its defined goal, Jury #8 illustrates a valuable managerial talent in motivating various members therein to consider their role in reaching said goal. A mode of delegation consistent with that offered by Yuki, the character serves as a functional demonstration of the effectiveness of power-sharing in navigating through conflict to compromise.

Yuki's text even offers the resolution that by engaging the group in these power-sharing activities, the leaders is helping to provide all organizational members with the necessary experiential and intellectual instruments to perform more effectively in their duties. Yuki argues that "the experience of helping to make a complex decision can result in the development of more skill and confidence by participants. Whether the potential benefits are realized depends on how much involvement participants actually have in the process of diagnosing the cause of the problem, generating feasible solutions, evaluating solutions to identify the best one, and planning how to implement it." (Yuki, 90)

All of this is to suggest that by talking the group through its various points of conflict with careful consideration of each individual's perspective, Juror #8 provides a model of participatory leadership… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Leadership in a Movie Based on the Theories and Concepts From the Book."  Essaytown.com.  May 6, 2010.  Accessed December 12, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/leadership-movie-based-theories-concepts/7025373.