Thirteen Days Decision Process

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Thirteen Days”
by

Antony Gumi
The “Thirteen Days” movie describes how the 35th president of United States of America (USA), John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis during the period of October 14-28, 1963. It shows how JFK’s leadership saved the world from having World War III (WWIII), or worse, Nuclear War. JFK’s crisis management and decision-making skills was tested during this period. He was under an extreme pressure, having the Cuban missiles were about to be ready to become operational and most of his Generals suggested him to launch a military strike, while he didn’t want to start a war and prefer to avoid one. To make things worse, the Joint Chiefs, who most of them were older than JFK, pressurized JFK to follow their solution to attack Cuba and they seem to barely be able to hold back their condescending attitudes towards the young president (JFK was about 45 years old at that time). Fortunately, JFK was not carried away by this situation; instead, he stressed his position to remind the chiefs of his authority as the president of USA who has the mandate from the American people to take the decision for the country. Finally, he successfully managed to end the crisis with a “peaceful” political negotiation with the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev. The definition of leadership was illustrated in how JFK influenced his followers to understand the consequences of launching an attack on Cuba (i.e. WWIII it is) and to agree upon having a more peaceful way to remove the missiles out of Cuba, which is to have a political negotiation. He influenced his followers’ interpretation of the event by always reminding them of the risk of starting a new war if they decide to follow their emotion to launch an attack. Thus, he asked for other choice of strategies and solutions from his followers. However, even after other solutions had been proposed, he still tried to influence the final decision by delaying it and hoping that the chance of having a political negotiation would arise to end the crisis. Among those proposed solution, JFK chose the “harmless” one, which was to run a blockade on Cuba. At first, most of his followers were not in full support of his decision of having this blockade since it was considered to be ineffective and slow. However, JFK managed to motivate them and gain their trust in this matter (As in some part of the movie shows how Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defence, convinced Admiral Anderson, the Chief of Naval Operation, not to start shooting until there was an order from JFK to do so). Having his followers’ trusts and supports at hand, JFK successfully organized and coordinated his followers to obey his orders during the crisis. He had also successfully shared his beliefs (i.e. launching an attack is a bad idea that could result in having WWIII) to his followers. According to Mintzberg’s framework, people in this film portrayed Interpersonal Roles, Informational Roles, and Decision-Making Roles. The movie showed how JFK (the real leader) put Kenny O’Donnell (i.e. the one who direct subordinates, e.g. calling pilots and ask them to lie in order to keep the military from launching a counter-attack) and Bobby F. Kennedy (i.e. the one who coordinate subordinates, e.g. holding ExComm meetings and arranging consensus) in charge under his direct supervision. JFK also hold the figurehead role. It is shown in the movie how he represented the cabinet at Chicago and could not be substituted by other representatives (e.g. by Vice President Lyndon Johnson). Moreover, there was a funny part of the movie where it is shown that JFK was scared of cancelling his visit to Chicago (perhaps because his supporters are mostly from this state). For the liaison role, Kenny O’Donnell perhaps was one of those who had it. He had interacted with several people (e.g. pilots, newspaper publisher, his fellow reporters, USA representative to the United Nation, etc) outside the White House in order to...
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