FYSM 120 – Leadership, War, and Hollywood
October 24nd, 2019
Writing Prompt #7
A leader is nothing without their followers. A great leader leads for their followers and not just for themselves. They want the best from everyone and motivate and help their followers in order to reach a common goal. A leader that is defined by these characteristics is a servant leader. “[Servant leadership] begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first… to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served” (Northouse, 228). A servant leader is all about the people, basically putting their followers before them. Ten characteristics of a servant leader include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community. In all the movies we have watched in class there are probably a decent number of leaders that can be seen as a servant leader but only one really stands out: Colonel Shaw from the movie Glory. Colonel Shaw is a servant leader because of his commitment and appreciation towards the growth of his followers. Shaw is a great example of the servant leader through his characteristics that can be illustrated from different scenes in the movie.
What’s most important about Colonel Shaw is that he cares for his followers. The ten characteristics of a servant leader all describe the care and commitment one shows to their followers and Colonel Shaw definitely shows that. Colonel Shaw led the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He volunteered to lead the first regiment with the company of black soldiers. During this time period care for the well-being and life of black people was not a priority for the majority of white people. For Shaw to help and value these men helps make him one of the best servant leaders in the movies we’ve watched so far. Shaw holds the ten characteristics of a servant leader very well throughout the movie. Let’s start with listening, empathy, and healing. Two examples from the movie show these characteristics. The first one is when Shaw rips his check along with his soldiers because of their unfair pay. When Private Trip rips his check and protests Shaw listens to him and says that if they won’t take their pay none of us will. Shaw listens to him and thinks about how unfair the situation is for the soldiers. The other example is when Shaw fights for new shoes for the soldiers. Sergeant Major Rawlins tells Shaw that the soldiers need new shoes and Shaw agrees. Even though the shoes aren’t really available, Shaw literally tears a room apart in protest in order to get shoes for his soldiers. This can even be a characteristic of awareness due to the fact that Shaw is “attuned and receptive to their physical, social, and political environments” (Northouse, 229). The people around him were becoming rowdier and more disrespectful in both these situations and Shaw realized that and adapted accordingly.
Shaw respects the unique values of his followers and also respects his followers as a whole. This defines the commitment to the growth of people and building community characteristics. Shaw always motivates the group and wants the best from them. An example of this is when Shaw was harsh on Private Sharts at the shooting range. Sharts had a good shoot but would not be successful under the pressure in battle. Although Shaw was hard on him it helped Sharts battle skills and also taught him to man up a bit. Commitment to growth includes “committed to helping each person in the organization grow personally and professionally” (Northouse, 230). Shaw helps the group improve in skill and confidence while managing soldiers individually to only better them. The next two characteristics, persuasion, and stewardship are accomplished by Shaw all throughout the movie. Shaw makes one thing clear: we are fighting for our country and are willing to die for it. This can also be described as conceptualization because it is a set goal. This goal follows stewardship because “they hold the organization in trust for the greater good of society” (Northouse, 230). The greater good is fighting for America, and that what Shaw leads them to do. He persuades them by bringing them together and telling them that fighting is the best option. Even though it may mean death Shaw motivates them and persuades them to fight.
Lastly, Shaw exemplifies conceptualization and foresight in the last battle. In the last battle Shaw volunteered his regimen to be the front line. He set the goal for the group, which was to make it to the opponent’s base or barrier and open it up. He also does this knowing that almost all of his regimen will die. Shaw volunteers his group because he knows that outside of the regimen, they really have nothing valuable to live for. This defines the other characteristic, “Foresight encompasses a servant leader’s ability to know the future” (Northouse, 230). Shaw knows what would happen if his soldier’s lives continued, and decided what was best was to be at the front of the line knowing that it would mean death.
Shaw always puts his followers first in his mind. He believed in them, wanted the best for them, and led them through battle up until his death. The fact that Shaw stood in front of his regimen and died fighting for them proves how great of a servant leader he was. Colonel Shaw is a servant leader because of his appreciation and commitment towards the well-being and growth of his followers. A leader is as good as their followers, and Shaw did everything he good to help his followers grow and improve as humans and soldiers, making his followers just as good as him.