FYSM 120 –– Leadership, War, and Hollywood
September 26th, 2019
Writing Buddy: Patrick Neiswender
Leaders are people who influence and command a group of followers. There are no required qualities that someone must have to be considered a leader, but there are many qualities that help determine what type of leader someone is and whether they are considered a good leader. A good leader can successfully direct their group towards a common goal. Some believe that leaders can only be born leaders, or that they cannot gain any “leadership” qualities throughout their lives. I disagree. Leaders can be born with certain leadership qualities but can also develop qualities through life and experience. Learning from your mistakes and from experience is the best way to become better at something, and that’s the same for leadership. Practice, experience, and failure is what makes someone gain the qualities that make them a good leader. Someone who I believe is a good example of this is Colonel Shaw from the movie Glory.
Colonel Robert Shaw is the main character in the movie Glory and was known for leading the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. What makes Colonel Shaw such an influential leader in the movie is his ability to lead through so much adversity. He volunteered to lead the first company of black soldiers. While many people were against it or did not believe that it would be effective, Colonel Shaw pursued it and made a difference in the lives of more than just the soldiers. An approach that Colonel Shaw perfectly exemplified was the Situational Approach. Shaw adapted to the skills of his soldiers, how they acted, and what they believed in to benefit the group. For example, when one of the characters, Private Sharts, had a good shot, Shaw realized that praise would not help him become better. So, Shaw was harsh on him and put him in a battle scenario by shooting his gun right next to him in order to pressure him. By doing this he helped the troops realize how serious battle was, and how having a good shot in a quiet environment would not do any good. Another example of this is when Colonel Shaw ripped his check in front of all his soldiers. Shaw made sure to implement some discipline into his regiment, but he also had to motivate them. By ripping his check, he illustrated that he was with them and that they were a team. Colonel Shaw was appreciated entirely by his soldiers and exemplified the Situational Approach to perfection through training and battle.
Colonel Shaw is also a good example of someone who developed leadership skills. The Situational Approach kind of goes hand and hand with developing skills in leadership. By adapting to certain situations, especially in times of adversity, Shaw became a better leader. Shaw gained confidence throughout the process. You can see he certainly did not have much at the start of the movie. He was very hesitant, did not know how to properly discipline the soldiers, and usually had someone speak for him if he couldn’t effectively talk to the soldiers. For example, when Sergeant Mulcahy said that one of the troops was to be whipped in front of everyone, Shaw just let him because he could not really make the decision for himself. Later he gained the confidence to direct and command how he wanted to and discipline and support how he thought was the right way to. Examples of this include the one I used in the paragraph before, when he fought for the soldiers to get new shoes, and when he volunteered the regiment to be the front of the line even though it meant death to most of the group. Leaders can be born with certain qualities, but that certainly is not the only determining factor. Shaw gained confidence, awareness, and intelligence throughout his process with the 54th regiment.
Colonel Shaw developed into the leader that he became before he died. Leaders are not born, they are developed. One must learn how to become the best leader they can be and gain the respect the need from their followers. Colonel Shaw proved this and gained the respect he wanted from his regiment and made a difference in the lives of many in the movie.