Management Lessons about Leadership styles in Movies

Leadership Styles in Movies /

Leadership is a major organizational resource, demonstrated by individuals via a wide range of skills and talents (Lester, 2015). Leadership represents a key means by which individuals change others’ minds, moving people and organizations forward for achieving established aims (IAAP, 2009). Several leadership models exist, with some of them proving to be rather effective and helpful. However, rapid transformations in the world, particularly in the last decade, owing to emergence of globalization and extensive adoption of information technology, have led to drastic changes in workforces’ behavior and expectations. One cannot now lead a workforce using conventional techniques of the past, if one desires to leverage staff talents and achieve optimal performance. A majority of successful companies today seek knowledge workers — well-trained, skilled and experienced individuals desiring to utilize their abilities to their optimum potential in a work setting that accords them enough autonomy to prove their sense of responsibility and initiative. If such individuals aren’t allowed to function at their optimum competence level, they will very likely lose motivation and momentum, and may quit the job. Therefore, knowledge leaders should recognize the need to adopt different styles of leadership appropriately and efficiently (Casse & Claudel, 2011).

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Different Leadership Styles in Movies

1. The Dead Poet’s Society Leadership Style

The leadership style depicted by Mr. Nolan was dictatorial and authoritarian — a power or influence approach to leadership. Mr. Nolan dislikes being challenged, can’t envision thinking differently, and steers a path with clear objectives: serving Welton to retain its austerity, traditionalism and status. (UK essays, 2015). John Keating, however, is shown to exhibit both Fidler’s contingency leadership style and a transformational approach. Leaders going by the latter approach motivate and inspire. Transformational leadership has five elements; inspirational motivation, idealized influence, collaboration/trust, intellectual stimulations, and individual consideration. Keating was essentially energetic, inspirational and dynamic. He introduced elements of humor in his lessons and suggested novel ways of viewing things, thereby stimulating pupils to be imaginative, and think differently. Throughout the movie, Keating demonstrates transformational leadership while coaching pupils through their issues and situations. Moreover, he employs skills and influence to listen, discover and come up with creative, novel ways of inspiring students, representing a leadership style wherein the leader offers followers a supportive atmosphere, listening carefully to their individual needs (Salman, 2013). His most insightful lesson was, perhaps, making pupils challenge conformity; Keating goads students towards finding their own way and swimming against the tide. He defies the process, teaching students to challenge new conventions (Christian, 2009). In my view, Mr. Keating’s leadership style definitely has an advantage over Mr. Nolan’s authoritarianism – the former had a larger number of followers, inspired effectively by him.

2. Office Space Leadership Style

Lumbergh’s leadership approach was authoritarian; he gave specific instructions to employees and closely supervised and monitored their work. Blanchard and Hershey assert that individuals adopting this approach employ one-way communication, generally believing that employees lack the capability of carrying out tasks they are delegated. Though authoritarian leadership does suit many settings, employees can also suffer greatly by it (Batke, 2015). A fitting example to demonstrate this is when Lumbergh states that he expects employees to work Sundays, as well, revealing that he is a dull, monotonous boss having little consideration for his employees’ lives and practically no understanding of their everyday workload. He cannot achieve cohesion and handle employees, a fact proven by his failed attempt to fire Milton Waddams (Daily, 2012). Lumbergh appears to lack in all behaviors and qualities that represent a great leader. One major leadership quality absent in him is social intelligence or sociability (Redmond, 2015).

3. Remember the Titans Leadership Style

Coach Boone exhibits a transformational leadership style, which, quite simply, denotes a process which alters and transforms people (Salman, 2013). This he proves by his ability to inspire individuals to want to be led, to change, and improve. Boone is without humor and warmth, inspiring his team to abide by the mission. He is capable and experienced in the art of motivation, and supports and encourages his team to do well and emerge victorious. He aims at creating equal opportunities for all players, ensuring that everybody in the team is respected. He is tough and effectively brings black and white players together. Boone cooperated in solving issues within the team (e.g. The problem between black and white players), and was an ecologically sensitive leader, aware of the likely obstacles a team faces. His focus was always his team and team members. In spite of being tough, his approach improves players’ self-confidence (123helpme, 2015).

4. The Princess Bride Leadership Style

Vizzini adopts a strategic leadership style, choosing a string of logic for solving the conundrum (Balzac, 2015). I feel that he, in fact, executes a clever strategy, watching the subconscious reactions of his opponent to all his arguments. When the opponent appears to be nervous upon hearing a particular conclusion, one can presume the conclusion is right. While this isn’t a foolproof strategy, it is rather smart, and requires a certain degree of skill. The idea is good, and makes Vizzini appear smarter. Though Vizzini is overconfident, he also proves to be good at strategizing. However, the man in black is smarter- he deduces Vizzini’s plan, and plays along. If one looks closely, one can see the man in black appearing a bit edgy when Vizzini almost chooses one of the goblets, and a bit confident when he nearly chooses the other one. Even without employing a Xanatos gambit, the winner would undoubtedly be the man in black (Reddit, 2013). This can be proven by Vizzini’s statement that he hasn’t decided, as iocaine is from Australia which is entirely populated with criminals, used to not being trusted; and therefore, he cannot choose the goblet placed before the man in black.

5. The Blind Side Leadership Style

The coach in this movie exhibits a task-oriented style of leadership. In this leadership approach, the leader concentrates on tasks required to be carried out for meeting specified goals, or attaining a particular performance level (Likert, 2015). The coach, having only Michael’s best interests in mind, invades Michael’s personal space, yells at him, and acts highly aggressive and directive. However, the message the coach wants to convey to Michael isn’t getting through, leading to confusion. When Michael fails to understand, the coach feels the only strategy he has left is repeating what he said earlier, only louder. This leadership approach was not appropriate in Michael’s case, but the coach fails to recognize that it isn’t leading to the outcome he desires. This lack of self-awareness on the coach’s part makes it difficult for him to alter how he pitches his message for different members of the team. The message, often, isn’t interpreted as was intended by the coach, and consequently, outcomes suffer (Hanson, 2015).

However, Michael’s mother, Leigh Anne adopts a transformational leadership approach, going out to the field and explaining to Michael that his team is akin to his family — he must protect team members (Koskamp, 2013). She recognizes Michael’s protective instincts towards his family, urging him to apply the same for his football team. Michael is a natural footballer with a gentle nature; he dislikes hurting others. A memorable scene in the movie shows Leigh Anne marching towards him during practice and telling him to regard team members as family: he is tasked with protecting them. Michael consequently displays an abrupt and impressive improvement in his game (Dave, 2013). This approach was well-suited to the situation, effectively inspiring Michael to improve.

6. The Devil Wears Prada Leadership Style

Miranda Priestly’s leadership style is visionary and dictatorial. Such behaviors undermine subordinates’ well-being, motivation, and job satisfaction, though they don’t necessarily hamper organizational goals. While dictatorial leaders may act in line with organizational mission, goals, strategies and tasks, they usually achieve results at the expense of subordinates. She did, however, have a visionary attitude, desiring her work to be perfect (Mees, 2013). For instance, when Andy sniggers at the fact that Miranda is meticulously trying to choose between two (apparently identical) belts for an outfit, Miranda gets offended, going off on a tirade and expounding on how the sweater Andy wears represents a lot of money and effort, and how she came to own it (IMDb staff, 2006). Miranda successfully heads a leading women’s magazine, handles a complete staff, and displays utter devotion to her role. While the methods adopted by her are unconventional as well as brusque, one cannot contest the fact that Priestly is an instrumental Editor-in-Chief. Her leadership style comes with its fair share of advantages. She has to be tough — one cannot work any other way when one heads a billion-dollar firm, and this powerful lady can teach us all some aspects of leadership. Furthermore, Miranda maintains high standards, urging staff members to match up to them. She has earned reputation and respect, and is direct regarding what needs to be done. She is an effective mentor, and separates her professional and personal life (Argintar, 2014).


Movies today offer several management lessons with regards to adopting effective leadership. Effective leaders possess the requisite abilities and tools for inspiring and influencing their teams, enabling smooth and competent functioning of the company. Good leaders must understand company mission statements, goals, objectives, and actions plans, for efficiently leading their workforce to fulfilling them.


Argintar, L. (2014). The Devil Wears Prada, A Boss, Not AB*tch: Why Women In the Workplace Get A Bad Rep. Elite Daily. Retrieved from

Balzac, S. (2015). Princess Bride Problem Solving. LinkedIn. Retrieved from

Batke, k. (2015). How Not to Manage Like Bill Lumbergh. Jostle Corporation. U.S.. Retrieved from

Casse, P & Claudel, P. (2011). Leadership styles: a powerful model. Training Journal.

Christian, K. (2009). Dead Poets Society – Transformational Leadership. Leadership in Higher Education. Retrieved from

Daily, R. (2012). Can You Find Good Leaders In Bad Movie Bosses?. Talent Management and HR. ERE Media. Retrieved from

Dave. (2013). The Blind Side guide to nurturing talent. Movie Leadership: 100 Ways to Learn from Film. Retrieved from

Hanson, B. (2015). Coaching Lessons from ?The Blind Side?. Athlete Assessments. Retrieved from

IAAP. (2009). Leadership Theories and Styles. 009 Administrative Professionals Week Event.

IMDb staff. (2006). Quotes forMiranda Priestly (Character)from The Devil Wears Prada (2006). IMDb site. Retrieved from

Koskamp, H. (2013). The Blind Side. Retrieved from

Lester, C.N. (2015). Leadership Styles- A Key to Effectiveness. Journal of Extension: November/December, 1975.

Likert, R. (2015). Behavioral Theories of Leadership. Leadership Retrieved from

Mees, M.D. (2013). The Devil Wears Prada – Leadership. Prenzi. Retrieved from

Reddit. (2013). The Princess Bride – what’s really going on during the battle of wits?. Fan Theories. Retrieved from

Redmond, B. (2015). Analyzing Lumbergh. WordPress Blog. Retrieved from

Salman, A. (2013). Benefits of Good Leadership In Business and Role of Good Leadership in Business Success Rapid Boost Markwting. Alberta. Retrieved from

Ukessay. (2015). Leadership In The Dead Poets Society English Literature Essay. English Literature. Nottinghamshire.

123 helpme. (2015). Boone and Yost. Help Retrieved from***.com/view.asp?id%3D56134&ei=970BkU23&lc=en-IN&s=1&m=40&ts=1440720558&sig=APONPFnHVamSLh04cGD3aa1Vgj_3vNV9Ig

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