A Bridge Too Far Path-Goal Theory

Robert Mihaly

Professor Powell

Leadership, War and Hollywood

11 October 2019

Path Goal Theory

In the movie “A Bridge too Far” the leadership theory known as Path-Goal Theory is displayed through the character Colonel Stout. Colonel Stout is with the 101st Airborne in the movie and as they are running toward the Son bridge it gets blown up. This requires the Allied forces to build a Bailey bridge to replace it. The problem is that the Allies are on a time schedule and need to build the bridge as fast as possible to continue their mission and reach the other airborne divisions ahead that are holding bridges with limited supplies. Colonel Stout uses Path-Goal Theory to get the bailey bridge materials to where they are needed and to motivate his troops to build the Bailey bridge to get the “Cavalry” moving again.

As soon as the Son Bridge is blown up Colonel Stout immediately tries to get the Bailey Bridge materials to the front so construction can begin. He ends up meeting Lt. Colonel J.O.E Vanderleur in a town that has a massive crowd slowing down the column and the Bailey bridge materials. Vanderleur says he doesn’t know how they are going to get the Bailey bridge through the crowd. Colonel Stout already had a backroad mapped out for the Bailey bridge to go around the crowd. Here he defined his goal; getting the Bridge to the site. Then he clarified his path of going around the city and removed the obstacle of the crowd as well by getting an alternate route. Lastly he provides support by telling the Vanderleur about it and getting the plan in motion. This is a great example of the use of Path-Goal Theory.

The second scene where the movie shows Colonel Stout using Path-Goal Theory is when the Bridge is actually being built. Throughout the process he uses the theory to motivate his troops to build the bridge efficiently. Throughout the process he is giving orders and being a directive leader, telling men to do certain things and to keep moving. A very specific scene he uses supportive and participative leadership behavior. In the scene where he is pulling on a rope, he tells a soldier to come over and pull on the rope as well. Then he asks the soldier if he ever built a Bailey bridge before and the soldier says no, Stout also states that he has not either. He uses the participative behavior because he is actually helping and he is supportive because he makes common ground that they both never built a Bailey bridge and this symbolizes that they are going through this task or obstacle together. From personal experience with football, it really helps a person to keep going if you know they are going through the same thing, and you do it together. He is being supportive to the soldier to motivate him. Lastly, he uses the Achievement Oriented behavior the entire time of the building the bridge by constantly reminding the troops that they have to build this bridge as fast as possible to save other troopers. Colonel Stout clearly uses Path-Goal Theory to lead his men.

Throughout the movie “A Bridge Too Far” many leadership theories are present. Colonel Stout is a very good and clear example of how Path-Goal Theory is used in the field and in the movie to lead his men. He uses all the behaviors of leader in Path-Goal Theory to get the Bailey bridge to the recently destroyed Son Bridge, to lead and to motivate his men to build the bridge. The Path-Goal Theory clearly is used and is applied to the situation as hand in the movie.


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