Leadership Analysis: Dead Poet's Society

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Leadership Analysis: Dead Poet’s Society

Leadership is defined as the ability to guide, direct or influence people, but it is much more than that. There are many ways to merely guide or direct. A leader is someone whose personality helps them to guide a group of people in a direction they believe is desirable. People want to follow the leader, but they are perfectly free not to. A leader guides people by the infectious nature of their vision. Leadership and authority are not the same thing. The key difference lies in the source of power. If a person has the ability lead a group to perform a certain act than that person is an authoritarian. They may also be a leader but being in charge does not make one a leader. There are many traits that must be present for a person to be a good leader and most of them require the leader to be wholly committed to his position. People can sense authenticity and want to be led by a real person. Leadership requires a reciprocal relationship and creating the relationship cannot be forged by the use of power.

The two distinct methods of authority displayed in the film illustrate the manner in which individuals react to each and the consequences of the methods. Mr. Keating’s leadership approach creates a strong bond with the students and empowers them to be successful. In Keating’s classroom, the students are pushed to think for themselves. Keating’s words and actions lead the students to feel a personal connection to him and a sense of trust. “Trust is the natural reciprocation of concern, respect, understanding and fairness.” Leadership involves building a team identity and gives the group attainable goals and at the same time the leader holds them to high expectations. The Welton academy is filled with attention-channeling systems; systems of rewards, such as acceptance in to the Ivy League, and punishments, such as expulsion or paddling, which are intended to push the students and uphold the esteemed status of the institution. Early in the movie, one teacher even dares the students to test him, after claiming that all homework assignments are mandatory and if not handed in on time will result in one percentage point taken off of their final grade. This management style strives to force conformity and exert its authority. This method demands its subordinates to follow the rules or else they will be removed from the organization. There are no types of relationships being built, because to the faculty the academy is there for only one purpose and getting students to think on their own is not it. It is apparent from the beginning of the film that even though Keating was once a student at Welton, his style of teaching and leadership are not going to fit in with the Academy’s rigidity.

The striking differences between Keating’s classroom and the rest of the school exemplify the difference between management and leadership. Even on the first day of classes, it is obvious that Keating is different. The first encounter the students have with Keating is him whistling, strolling through the filled classroom. This leaves the students perplexed. Based on their past experiences at the Welton Academy, the students have never seen a teacher act this way. Usually the teacher would enter the room, the students would rise and then the lesson would start. He immediately makes an impression on them; the initial conversation with the students further stresses to them his differences from his peers. All of the other teachers are strict, pushing grueling curriculums that are the norm for a school as prestigious as the Welton Academy. His first conversation with the students shows his character and immediately illustrates his intentions for the class. The students even describe this meeting as spooky, but claim, “at least it was different.” This first lesson shows Keating’s role as an inspirational leader. Through his repetition of Carpe Diem, he is trying to cultivate excellence and create some...
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