Leadership, War, and Hollywood Writing Prompt #5

In the movie A Bridge Too Far, there were many notable leaders, some for good reasons; others, not so much. By far one of the better leaders, however, is Paul Maxwell of the 101st Airborne division. During Market Garden, the 101st Airborne was charged with the capture of multiple bridges in the Eindhoven area. Unfortunately, one of the main bridges that they were due to take, the Son, was blown up by the Germans. Maxwell was able to take command of the situation, however, and he coordinated the construction of a bailey bridge in order to help renew the assault. Paul Maxwell’s command of the 101st Airborne during the rebuilding of the Son bridge demonstrates path goal theory. He does so by defining a goal (to help XXX Corps reach the other side of the water obstacle), clarifying a path (rebuilding the bridge), removing obstacles (ensuring that the trucks carrying the bridge parts get to the front, among other things) and providing support (by both helping with manual labor and encouraging the men along). He also exemplifies directive leadership, as well as consideration for the characteristics of the task at hand.

Maxwell follows the basic idea behind Path Goal Theory. He does so by making sure that the group’s goal is clear, clarifying how they will achieve their goal, removing obstacles in the group’s way, and ensuring that his men are motivated to get the task done. For example, he makes sure that the group’s task is clear. Everyone knew from the start that they needed to take this bridge in order to get the XXX Corp’s tanks across. Since the bridge that they were supposed to take was blown up, however, they needed to find another way to keep the formation moving. This is where the 2nd part of the basic idea of PGT comes in, as he clarifies the group’s path by ordering them to build the bridge. He also helps clear obstacles in the group’s way. In this case, the main obstacle was the fact that they needed materials to rebuild the bridge with. Thankfully, the Allied commanders thought that this might happen, so they gave the XXX Corps prefabricated bridges that they could put together if need be. Maxwell has the trucks carrying these bridges moved up to the front. Lastly, Maxwell provides his men with the proper motivation to get the task done. Most of this is done in the typical form of shouting, but he also motivates his men by doing the work with them. Ensuring that his men were motivated was especially crucial, as the Allies had already overrun their deadlines and they were running extremely behind schedule. Therefore, it was critical to get the bridge built as swiftly as possible in order to keep the column moving. In this manner, Maxwell exemplifies the basic idea of the Path Goal Theory of leadership really well; due to his organization skills, he and his men were able to get the bridge built overnight. This was not enough, however, as the XXX Corps was still delayed by 36 hours by the time they got over the bridge.

Maxwell also displays directive leadership and consideration for the characteristics of the group’s task. It is clear that he chose to be more direct in his leadership due to the fact that they urgently need to replace the bridge. In this situation, direct leadership was more necessary once the characteristics of the task were considered. As stated above, the Allies needed to construct a bailey bridge due to the destruction of the bridge they planned to use. Since there were no other bridges they could use, the main assault was held up while the bridge was being rebuilt. It should become apparent at this point that, due to time necessities, a direct form of leadership should be taken. Maxwell knew this, so he took charge of the situation and gave people direct and simple orders. He knew what the situation called for and he adjusted his leadership style accordingly. Together, he and his men got the bridge built overnight, which is an impressive feat. This may have been in vain, though. Despite their best efforts, the XXX Corp’s assault was still 36 hours behind schedule. Overall, though, Maxwell does show great consideration for his leadership tactics when concerned with the details of the group’s task.

In conclusion, Paul Maxwell greatly demonstrated the path goal theory of leadership. He exemplified the basic idea of the path goal theory. He did this by making sure his group knew beforehand that they needed to help XXX Corp cross the canal, clarifying their path by telling them to build the bailey bridge, clearing obstacles by ensuring that they got the supplies needed to construct the bridge, and lastly by properly motivating them. Maxwell also took consideration for the details of the task and adjusted his style of leadership accordingly. He knew that he needed to get the bridge built ASAP, so he took on a more direct form of leadership in which he was more loud and clear with his commands. That is to say he was yelling, but with a purpose as opposed to yelling for no reason. Overall, though, Paul Maxwell showed remarkable leadership during the bridge building scene from A Bridge Too Far.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *