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Leadership Essay on the Movie 12’oclock High

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Essay title: Leadership Essay on the Movie 12’oclock High


Set in Archbury Airfield, England, during World War II, “Twelve O’Clock High” is full of engaging individuals whose character development reveal insights into the different approaches to leadership and their resultant effectiveness. The movie centralizes on the American 918th Bomber Group, a flight crew suffering from low-moral, dismal performance and “hard luck” after several unsuccessful flight missions. However, their luck drastically changes under the leadership of a dedicated, relentless general bent on boosting the crew’s morale and performance though self-actualization, motivation and pride.

Many characters in this report display exemplary leadership qualities, but also highlight poor elements of leadership whose contrast sheds light on what truly makes an effective leader. Keith Davenport is the compassionate general and comrade to the 918th flight crew, who, after several mission mishaps with high crew and aircraft losses, is replaced by General Frank Savage. Savage is a disciplined hard-ass who whips the flight crew into shape by introducing discipline, direction and structure within the 918 flight crew. Through it all, Major General Pritchard, the ‘higher-up’ in charge of delegating authority, reveals snapshots of leadership that his role plays towards the eventual success of the 918 flight crew.

This report will highlight and compare these character’s roles and approaches to leading the 918th crew towards self-actualization, success and excellence. Namely, this report will emphasize the four crucial elements of being a good leader that they display throughout the course of the movie: taking charge, maintaining strategic vision, communications and teamwork, and personal integrity. These components of leadership will be discussed in detail with supporting examples to reveal more insight into the crucial elements that make up a good leader.

Taking Charge

An effective leader possesses the will, desire and the know-how of how to take charge in any situation. Prime examples of this element of leadership were portrayed effectively by Savage and Pritchard, who’s quick and effective decisions embodied the “take charge” attitude of a good leader.

General Pritchard displays a definite ‘take charge’ attitude when he immediately makes key decisions to confront the 918th crew’s dismal performance. For example, he makes the key decision to replace Davenport with Savage after it becomes apparent that there is a conflict of interest between the war effort and Davenport’s over-concern for his men that is hindering the crew’s ultimate objective and motive to succeed. He even has the hindsight to suggest replacing Savage at the end of the movie when he sees that the “hard-as-nails” general is beginning to grow emotional attachments with the crew, the same folly that was the crux of Davenport’s failure. Pritchard made smart, calculated decisions based on future long-term goals and truly knew how to read the people around him, thus allowing him to be an effective take-charge leader.

Savage was a character who took immediate charge of the situation after Davenport’s leave. He did this by quickly establishing his authority and making key decisions to forcefully convey to the crew that he was not there to guide them as a friend and confidant, but as a true leader. For example, he reminded the crew to salute and stand at attention when in his presence, a protocol that had been lax under Davenport’s leadership. He also demoted, hired and fired based on individual performance and shut down the crew’s pub to express that, while under his leadership, it would no longer be a lenient, unproductive environment. In a true act of leadership, Savage also delegated authority to other crew members, thus breeding effective leaders underneath him. A prime example was the “punishment” of Ben Gately by assigning him the leader of the “leper colony”, a crew of poor-performance crew members, for not pulling his weight during missions and relieving some of the burden that sat on Davenport’s shoulders. Although Gately was being punished with such an unwanted position, he successfully manages the “leper” crew by mimicking Savage’s strict, disciplined attitude and leading them towards excellence along with the rest of the team. In another an act of delegating authority, Savage also assigns other crew members to lead missions to teach them responsibility, imbue them with pride, and build the team’s faith in each other.

Strategic Visioning

One fundamental element of being an effective leader is leading the team towards a strategic vision, a future goal that is set and shared by all that are committed to achieving success. In Twelve O’Clock

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