A True Leader

Very few people can be true leaders, people, who can make others follow them. In this case, power, either physical or administrative, is not, as it is often believed, a prerequisite of one's leadership. On the contrary, it often stands in one's way to leadership making him/her believe that they can lead people only due to the power. Power often fails, and the people who are led go out of control. Meanwhile, leadership is something stronger, something that one can depend on.

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When speaking about leadership and leaders in cinematography, it is worth mentioning the type of leader played by Robin Williams in the movie shot almost twenty five years ago, yet still remaining a very up-to-date picture. It is "Dead Poets Society" by Peter Weir. Robin Williams plays a school teacher, John Keating, who comes to teach English literature in Welton Academy in Vermont. This academy is believed to be an elite educational establishment; however, their students do not share this point of view. They feel quite wrong about the methods of teaching and the standards of the academy, which is very different from real life.

John Keating introduces quite different methods of teaching. He teaches his students to stand up against everything that is artificial, and fight against it. He makes fun of the introductory essay in the literature textbook and tells his students to tear it away. The reason for his dislike of the essay is very simple: the author of the essay believes and argues that a mathematical model can be applied to measuring the quality of any poetical piece. Keating teaches his students to see the world in a different way. For that purpose, he makes them stand on his desk. He takes his students out of the classroom in order to show them how big a value of their everyday lives is, and how important it really is to live now and here and value every day of one's life. He is an inspiration for his students; they believe in his ideas and follow his advice. He is a true leader for them.

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When applying the situational leadership theory to analyzing the roles played by the students and their leader, we should emphasize the fact that when he comes to the academy, the students, whom he is about to teach, belong rather to the M1 category of maturity: unable and insecure. He manages to take them up the scale through being at M2 level, unable but willing, and up to M3 level, at which they are, according to the theory, capable but unwilling. It is when an incident which ends his teaching career at Welton academy happens. One of his students goes against the will of his father. The student's name is Neil. Neil's dream is becoming an actor. When an introduction of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night's Dream is being planned, Neil wants to take part in the play. However, he knows that his father will not allow that. Though, he makes a trick telling the teacher that he has got his father’s permission to take part in the play. In the end of the play, his father appears being frustrated and outraged. He takes his son home, and promises to make him enter a military academy. Neil, feeling unable to contradict the will of his father, commits a suicide, and it is Keating who is blamed for it. Keating is fired from the school at the time when he can make sure that his students are at M3 level. Though, not a single one of them stands up for him. They all sign papers which admit that it was him who arranged the “Dead Poets Society” and, basically, he is being accused of the death of the student.

The boys have their first literature class without Keating. A new teacher has got power over them and tries to use it; but he is not a leader, though he can shout very loud.

Meanwhile, Keating comes to the class to collect his belongings. At first, students do not react on his appearance. However, in a short while, when their former teacher is about to make his way to the door, they stand up on their desks despite the angry remarks and threats of their new conservative teacher.

It is when the students cross the border. It demonstrates us that they are already at the final stage: they are confident, willing, capable, and skillful. They are at B4 level, according the scale offered by the situational leadership theory of Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard.

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It is very important to analyze what leadership styles Keating uses. As a true leader, he does not stick to only one of such styles. On the contrary, he combines them and uses to develop those who are being led. He starts with S1, and tells his students what, when, and how to do certain things. Though, as they progress, he manages, through S2 and S3 levels, to reach the level at which he can just remain involved in observing the progress and making necessary corrections. However, this is the very point when he is being dismissed and has to leave his group.

Keating is a true leader, the one who does not have to use power to exercise his leadership, the one who is followed by people willingly. Though, such leaders are not liked by weaker people and therefore, his career ends so quickly. He taught his students to be careful when struggling against a system, however, he failed to win such a struggle himself.

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