The Hurt Locker Leadership
Another OB theory that is examined in The Hurt Locker is Leadership. This theory is defined as the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of organizations of which they are members. There are four perspectives on Leadership; these perspectives include Trait, Behavioral, Contingency and Transformational.
The trait or competency perspective of leadership proposed that leaders are more likely to have certain personality, social, physical, or intellectual traits than non leaders.
Trait perspective emphasis on leadership competencies, which are learned behaviors such as skill, abilities, and values. Successful leaders acquire competencies that include; * Drive and energy (includes achievement, motivation, ambition, tenacity, and initiative) * Leadership motivation (the desire to lead but not to seek power as an end in itself) * Honesty and integrity * Self-confidence (associated with emotional stability) * Cognitive ability * Knowledge of the business.
Another component of Trait perspective is leadership agility, which is the ability to make wise and effective decisions amid complex changing conditions. The next leadership perspective is behavioral. This perspective proposes that effective leader behave in a certain desirable way. This behavior can be perceived as task-oriented, people oriented, neither, or both. A task-oriented style of leadership spells out duties and specific tasks, tells people what to do and how to do it, ensures employees follow rules, and encourages employees to reach peak performance.
This style is also referred to as production-oriented and autocratic. On the other hand a people oriented or democratic style of leadership shows trust and respect, engages in two-way communication, listens, encourages, give recognition, and provides socio-emotional support to followers. The third style is call Laissez-faire or uninvolved leadership style, this is an employee-centered style in which the manager permits his or her employees to function within prescribed limits. A balanced leadership style is when the manager exhibits both task and people orientation.
The third leadership perspective is Contingency; this is a perspective that proposes that effective leadership depends upon the degree of fit between the leader’s style and various factors in the particular situation. By nature, contingency theories are “if-then” theories; If the situation…. , Then….. Depending upon the situation an appropriate leadership behavior will be used. There are three leadership theories that take a contingency perspective. First is Path-Goal Contingency theory. This theory proposes that leader effectiveness is based on an expectancy theory of motivation.
This theory advises that the basic role of the leader is to clear the follower’s path to the goal. Research suggests that leaders can and should change their style to fit follower and workplace characteristics (contingencies). Leaders should use one of four behavior styles to help followers clarify the paths that lead them to work and personal goals. 4 behavior styles are; directive, supportive, participative and achievement-oriented. Second is Fiedler’s Contingency Theory, this theory suggests that high task and high people orientation is not best in all situations.
Effective leadership depends on the match between the leader’s style and the degree of control he or she has in the situation. When control is high, situation is considered to be “favorable” and vice versa. Favorableness depends on three key factors or contingencies. Position power: the authority associated with the leader’s formal position in the organization. Leader-member relations: the quality of interpersonal relationships between a leader and the group members. Task structure: the degree of clarity, or ambiguity, in the work activities assigned to the group.
The last theory is Leadership Substitutes Theory. This theory suggests that in some situations leaders can reduce the amount of leadership they exercise because it becomes unnecessary due to existing substitutes or neutralizers. Things that can substitute for leadership include; high skills of employees, team cohesiveness, formal controls. The fourth and last perspective is transformational. The theories mentioned so far have been, transactional leadership theories: a process of social exchange between followers and leaders that involves a number of reward based transactions.
The transactional leader clarifies performance expectations, goals, and a path that will link achievement of the goals to rewards. Transformational leadership is leadership that inspires followers to share a vision, empowers them to achieve the vision, and provides the resources necessary for developing their personal potential. Transformational leaders serve as role models, support optimism, and mobilize commitment as well as focus on the followers needs for growth. Characteristics and Behaviors of Transformational Leaders Characteristics | Behaviors| Charisma (idealized influence): followers have complete faith in him/her| Articulates vision, mission| Inspirational motivation; inspires loyalty in the organization| Models the vision| Individualized consideration; gives personal attention to all members | Builds commitment to mission| Intellectual stimulation: enables followers to think about old problems in new ways| Demonstrates personal integrity | Evident of leadership is consistently shown throughout The Hurt Locker from Staff Sergeant, Matt Thompson and First Class Sergeant, William James.
At the beginning of the movie Matt Thompson lead the U. S Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) in the Iraqi-American war. The trait perspective of leadership demonstrated by Matt Thompson includes Leadership motivation, honesty and integrity, and knowledge of the business. Matt seem to know what he is doing hence he is leading the team. He steps up when required; during the first scene of the movie Sergeant JT Sanborn, responsible for controlling the remote control vehicle is unable to execute his duties so Matt steps in and help out.
Matt illustrates people oriented behavior because he tries to communicate with his partners. Matt Thompson is not confident enough and he doesn’t have that motivation and ambition, he tries to play it safe. During that scene Sanborn informs Matt that he is within the blast radius and Matt says “thanks for reminding me” in a sarcastic way which shows lack of confidence. Matt also lacks in leadership agility, as he was not able to make a wise and effective decision during a complex situation which cost him his life.
First Class Sergeant, William James is Matt Thompson’s replacement. He is an extremely talented individual who shows outstanding leadership skills. After meeting Sanborn he gets emotional and tells him that he isn’t trying to replace Matt but just wants to do his best. This shows initiative and leadership motivation. James is very knowledgeable about his business which helps him to be self-confident. James has a balanced leadership style as he exhibits both task and people oriented behavior.
James tells people what to do and how to do it, he ensures employees follow rules, and encourages employees to reach peak performance. As a Specialist, Owen Eldridge looks up to James. James recognizes this and tries his best to make sure Eldridge reaches his peak performance by telling him what to do and how to do it. During one of the scenes the bullet of a sniper rifle is jammed and James asks Eldridge to fix it. Unable to do so Eldridge asks James for help. James endangers himself to show Eldridge that he must spit on the bullet to remove to blood because the blood is causing the jam.