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What Makes a Leader? Watch and Learn.
Posted By Trudy Palmer On February 2, 2012 @ 2:49 pm In College | No Comments
What do Harry Potter, Captain Jack Sparrow, Lord of the Rings’ Aragorn, and Andy Dufresne of Shawshank State Prison have in common?
That question kept members of a College leadership study group talking late into the night this past semester. Besides being larger-than-life film characters, these on-screen fictional heroes (and antiheroes) proved to be great discussion starters about the qualities—or essence—of leadership.
David Wold, director of Principia’s Leadership Institute, came up with the idea to organize a Leadership in Film group as a novel way to explore leadership concepts that don’t normally present themselves through more conventional activities. Interested students applied to participate; ten were selected and met every two weeks to hash out vital components of leadership including motivation, likeability, decision-making style, influence, and effectiveness. Of course, it all boils down to the essential question: would you follow this leader—into battle, after a prison break, or even to the world’s end?
In case you’re tempted to think a pirate, boy wizard, ranger turned fantasy king, or unjustly imprisoned and persecuted banker have little to do with real-life leaders, consider what influence they may have on our collective cultural ideas about positive and negative leadership. For instance, is it okay to break some rules as long as your motives are pure? Is it acceptable to manipulate others as long as they benefit in the end? Should a leader focus on accomplishing a task, taking care of people, or fulfilling an ideal? You get the idea—along with millions of viewers worldwide.
While movie watching is mostly a passive activity, participating in the leadership group was not. Sophomore Sierra Powell explained how the activities helped her think more deeply not only about leadership qualities but also about “how best to act on them.” She described her new inclination to “constantly evaluate the qualities, leadership styles, and achievements I see in the people around me, as well as in the books I read and the movies I watch. It makes me question what we are really holding in our thought as ‘the best.’ ” Abbie Steckler, also a sophomore, found it fascinating to analyze movies from the perspective of leadership. She commented, “You realize you’re subconsciously forming opinions about how a leader should look and act. In many ways, heroes in movies are unrealistic, and yet we hold our societal leaders to that standard. I’m excited to explore this subject further.”
The group will continue meeting this semester with each member bringing his or her nominees for “the best leaders in film.” From this list, the group will work to create a ranking of on-screen leaders and explore their qualities in more depth.
Later this semester, the Leadership Institute will team up with professor Jeff Steele to offer a workshop on leadership and the principles of improvisation, open to all interested students. The Institute will also present Quiet Time talks by professors Mike Hamilton, on leaders in the Bible, and Brad Stock, on Mrs. Eddy as a leader. Looking forward to next fall, Wold is planning a new program called Leadership Across Borders, exploring how leadership—and leaders themselves—differ from culture to culture.
To learn more about the range of leadership training opportunities currently available to College students and plans for future expansion, listen to a recent Principia Chat  featuring David Wold.
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 Principia Chat: http://community.principia.edu/node/598
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