FYSM 120 – Leadership, War, and Hollywood
October 10th, 2019
Writing Prompt #5
What makes a leader great? Overall, there are many reasons or things that can make a leader considered “great” or “influential” but ultimately the greatness of a leader is judged by their success. A phrase that is often used is that a leader is nothing without their followers, and a follower is nothing without their leader. The success of a leader does not only depend on themselves but also on their followers. The theory we learned from the textbook, Leadership-Member Exchange, describes how a leader can become more successful with their followers. Another theory that we learned from the textbook was Path-Goal Theory. Of course, followers will be more willing to listen and act under their leader with a good relationship, but sometimes directions and confidence are more necessary. By clearly setting a certain goal for the group and taking their skills and characteristics under consideration, a leader can be considered successful. In the movie “A Bridge Too Far” leader Paul Maxwell, who was involved in the 101st airborne division, is a great example of a leader who is successful while illustrating the Path-Goal Theory during the movie.
The main points that Path-Goal Theory highlights is clarifying a goal, overcoming obstacles, and directing one’s followers in order to complete the goal. Maxwell exemplifies this when he is involved with the rebuilding of the Son Bridge. Maxwell did a great job of motivating his men throughout the process while keeping the goal clear. Obviously, all the men following his orders knew that this bridge was of much importance. The bridge would help get supplies and tanks across to further help their position in the war. Unfortunately, the bridge is blown up. This just serves to be the main obstacle that Maxwell, and his followers, need to overcome in order to help the allied forces. Maxwell takes control of the situation and directs the group to help build the bridge across to help. Maxwell does a great job of motivating these men by clearly directing them, shouting at them (although it may seem harsh it was somewhat necessary), and even participating in the labor. The last part is especially important because it makes the group feel that their leader wants it just as much as they do. In the end, this effort did not end up being completely successful. But, Maxwell, in this scenario, did a great job of defining the Path-Goal Theory by motivating his group, directing them, and participating with them in order to get the bridge built overnight to help the allied forces.
Maxwell also proved to be a massive help with his knowledge of the situation. Knowing that his group was behind schedule, he pushed the group towards their ultimate goal, no matter how much energy it took. One of the main aspects of Path-Goal Theory is defining a goal and succeeding it. Maxwell clearly took this into account when directing the group and pushed them to their limit.
Path-Goal Theory is definitely one of the simpler theories that leaders must acknowledge in order to become successful, but sometimes becomes overshadowed by personal needs of either the leader or the followers. Maxwell took on the obstacles with confidence and made sure that his followers knew exactly what they should be doing. He pushed them, he motivated them, and he even physically helped them in order to get the job done. This can even be argued to be a consequence of LMX because of the relationship he built with his followers. Overall though, by defeating the obstacle in his way and defining the goal at hand Maxwell perfectly exemplifies Path-Goal Theory in “A Bridge Too Far.”