Leadership Exam Essay Examples
Who do you think demonstrated the most leadership charisma and why? How is this charisma similar to and different from the Leadership Challenge process of inspiring a shared vision?
I believe it was the character of Flight Director Gene Kranz, the role played by Ed Harris, who truly demonstrated leadership charisma in the movie. As compared to other characters in the movie, it was Kranz who showed the most charismatic and ideal characters of a true leader. There were several things that make Kranz standout as a leader. First, he displays confidence early in the movie and this behavior commands respect from his colleague. Kranz confidence may have been derived from his experience and knowledge on his field. Evidently, he is knowledgeable on almost all aspect of the operation and so he was able to process information and makes informed decisions. One thing that also makes him standout among other is on how he keeps his positive disposition. As observed, Kranz kept his calm despite the panic that goes around him because of the unexpected situation. Most often, the true character of a leader is shown under difficult circumstances. Kranz and his team may have expected some glitch on the process of their operation but did not expect it to be as difficult as the one they are about to handle. Kranz’s ability to remained focus and resolved under pressure is one of his leadership strenghts. At the time of troubled and chaotic circumstances, Kranz steered his group towards a common vision. At one particular instance, while discussing the options for re-entry of the Apollo 13, Kranz was caught saying, “I don’t care what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do” . At this point, Kranz was demonstrating his decisiveness to achieve the organization’s goal. He demonstrated that he cared about the organization’s goal of sending back the astronauts to earth by standing firmly on this resolve despite the odds. For example, during a heated discussion with his group members, he was caught saying, “We are not losing those crews,” and “Failure is not an option”.
Evidently, it was Kranz resolve and dedication to achieve their common vision that inspired commitment among his members. As a leader, Kranz is passionate on what he is doing. He shows his passion by proactively engaging his team to a discussion and by listening intently to their suggestions. As a result, Kranz has created an environment where his people are motivated to work as a team and engage themselves in team effort. In order to create this type of environment, a common goal or vision is necessary. A shared vision serves as the guiding principle in order for the organization to stay focused to their common goal. In actual organizations, vision statements are of utmost importance. As observed, vision puts purpose in an organization (Leadership in a Complex World, “Leadership Vision,” 2015). Without vision, an organization can easily lose focus and end up in failure. Successful corporations and organization have been observed not only to have visions but also vivid or clear visions that guide them in what they are trying to achieve. In the movie, during the flight of the Apollo 13, there was a brief confusion on what could be the common vision that the group should take. On that crucial moment, Flight Director Gene Kranz provided the common vision for the group and that is to take the crews of Apollo 13 back to earth at all costs. In the inspiring a shared vision, it was pointed out that the vision should be vivid or should have a clear purpose. Similarly, by clearly articulating the new organizational direction of bringing the astronauts back to earth, Kranz was adhering with the leadership process of having a clear vision wherein he uses his leadership charisma to inspire commitment from his members.
Discuss a scene from the movie that demonstrates challenging the process, both searching for opportunities and experimenting and taking risks. Which aspects of challenging the process are modeled and by whom? Does the scene present inside the box or outside the box thinking?
The part in the movie wherein Flight Director Gene Kranz challenged the ship’s design and told the representative of the Apollo 13 saying, “I don’t care what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do” was one of the most compelling scenes that showed challenging established processes. At this point, Kranz and his crews are discussing how they are to devise a plan for the Apollo 13 to make its way back to earth. Given the circumstances, Kranz and his team were able to devise a plan that break away with established procedures. Challenging procedures and using it to their advantage was clearly demonstrated when the Apollo 13 crew were having problems with the rising levels of carbon dioxide in their ship. Back on ground, Kranz’s crew figured out a way on how to resolve the problem using unconventional materials that under normal circumstances is definitely not allowed. By improvising on what can be readily available for the astronauts’ on board the Apollo 13, a certain filtering devise using cardboards, socks, duct tapes and other readily available objects. Despite the fact that the instrument was of crude and improvised material, it was instrumental in saving the lives of the astronauts. Clearly, the ground crew of Apollo 13, under the leadership of Kranz, exhibited their creativity and innovation. Given the circumstances, Kranz crew needs to come up with a solution that would utilize available materials and combine it into something useful and novel solution, which is in line with ‘thinking inside the box’ approach. It should be noted that there was no guarantee that their devise will work but the thought that they tried to innovate in order to create something in a limited time that under normal circumstance could have taken a longer and extensive process is exemplary. Evidently, Kranz’s crews were taking the risk. What if the improvised instrument fails to work? Yet under such circumstances, there is not much choice since the level of carbon dioxide, unless mitigated, would still be fatal for those onboard the Apollo 13. In a way, whether they like it or not, Kranz’s crews would have no choice but to take the risk.
Discuss the ways in which Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) motivates others at NASA by a) modeling the way, b) inspiring a shared vision, c) enabling other to act, and d) encouraging the heart. Link these actions to both the text and course material.
Role models are everywhere. Be it in sports, politics and in every social institution even as small as the family, role models are always sought. A parent, for example, is a role model for a child as Michael Jordan is to basketball players. The point is, role models are viewed as extraordinary individuals worthy of being followed. Evidently, role models are experienced in their own field and must excel in their own area of expertise. This point of view also applies to leadership wherein a leader is viewed as the top man in an organization that everyone should look up to. Gene Kranz character is a role model and exhibited true leadership by taking the lead himself. He demonstrated his being a role model by being there all the time and working overtime with the rest of his crews. As a leader, Kranz’s demands were met with optimism because he is seen doing what he preaches. Some leaders, for example, might just give orders without contributing an effort. For Kranz, leading by example, was his leadership style as he is seen as being one of the most active individual in the group. In every moment, Kranz is there to guide his team and is not afraid to make decisions if necessary. Kranz never showed even a slight doubt that they can help save the lives of the astronauts in the Apollo 13 and help them make a reentry in to earth. Most likely, having worked as hard as the rest of his team, he must also have been very exhausted. What is amazing with his character is despite the enormous physical, mental and emotional demands of their job, Kranz managed to remain calm. His calmness resonates to the rest of his team and he is shown in the movie in several instances pacifying and advising his crew to remain calm as well.
In terms of inspiring a shared vision, Kranz demonstrated it by keeping a positive attitude and focusing on their group’s current objectives. Because of the explosion, the initial objective of landing on the moon is not an option anymore. Knowing this, Kranz was quick to decide that they should change their objective into returning the astronauts back on earth safely. Kranz believe that despite the failure of their first objective, the safe return of the astronauts is the most ethical and moral decision to make. Kranz know that this task is enormous and almost impossible but he never gave up. In fact, he rallied all his crews and told them that failure, this time, is not an option. It is also interesting to note that during difficult situations, certain positive qualities are uncovered. Being positive despite the enormous odds is Kranz’s quality that inspired others to share his vision of never giving up on the astronauts of Apollo 13. In one particular instance in the movie, Kranz overheard two guys in the background discussing the almost impossible situation of the space shuttle’s reentry. According to one guy, “We got the parachute situation, heat shield, angle of trajectory and a typhoon. There are so many variables, I’m at a loss”. Hearing his negative commentaries, Kranz answered, “With all due respect sir, I believe this will be our finest hour”. Indeed, Kranz see positive things despite the difficult situation and what is more exemplary on his leadership is that he uses the difficult and challenging scenarios to motivate others to exceed their capabilities.
Kranz is evidently proactive and intensely involved in the operation, which makes him a very visible leader that inspires action. Despite the fact that he is not knowledgeable on the technical details about the mission, he listens intently and evaluates recommendations from the experts that are under his supervision. He takes the initiative of asking them of their opinion and involves them directly on the organization’s processes. By doing so, all the individuals in his team contribute in full effort to towards their goals. Although Kranz believe on his people and highly regards their opinion, he also know how and when to make decisive decisions. In one particular scene, some of Kranz’s crews were undecided on whether to give the flight procedure to him or not because they are unsure if it will work or not. In response, Kranz said in an agitated voice, “God damn it. I don’t want another estimate. I want the procedure, now”. But of course, his crew knew that his anger was not directed at them personally and so his anger commands respect because they know that all he was after is for the whole mission to succeed.
Kranz believe that when an individual knows the value of what he is doing, he will be inclined to do anything in his power to make it work or to finish the job. In the movie, Kranz see to it that his ground crew knows for sure that the life of the astronauts depend on them. This gives an impression that what they are doing is extremely important and even of heroic nature. For the same reason, Kranz continuously motivates his crews by recognizing their efforts and their individual abilities. Kranz also sees to it that he does not give any wrong indication that he is giving up on the crews of Apollo 13. In deed and in motivation, he demonstrated that he is willing to do everything in his power to save the lives of the men onboard. By showing empathy, his crews may have come to realize that what they are doing is not only focused on the technical and scientific demands of their job but also a moral and humane obligation of saving lives. Optimism is also one of the qualities that Kranz possesses that encouraged his crew to push on. As observed in the movie, Kranz lively and proactive leadership sends a strong message of never giving up and to push harder to overcome the challenge and enormous goals.
The importance of information sharing is seen in many aspects of leadership, both in the Leadership Challenge in the course lectures. Use examples from the movie to highlight the different roles of information sharing in effective leadership. Also use the movie to identify limits to information sharing – when shouldn’t leaders always share information and why?
In the movie, members of Kranz’s crew have different abilities and competencies. In real life organizations, this type of diversity is not unusual. By analogy, most organizations works like a huge machine wherein every part have a specific function but all contributes to the achievement of a common goal. For leaders, the efficient execution of these different functions is of utmost importance. Evidently, leaders must have at least a basic knowledge on how each of the different functions within his organization works so that he can make informed decisions. Even so, leaders of such diverse organizations are not necessarily experts on every field. For the same reason, they need quality information to help them in their decision making. The command center in Houston in the movie presents a similar scenario. As observed, the organization is composed of several people who have different competencies and specializations. There are engineers; there are physicists, mathematicians among many others. There are also those people who have designed some components of the space craft as well as other astronauts who are not directly engaged in the mission. All of these people have been pooled together to work for a certain mission, which initially was to land the Apollo 13 with its three crews onboard on the moon and back. Evidently, the biggest challenge for a leader of such group is on how to utilize all these varied human resources and steer their talents toward accomplishing the mission. Under normal circumstances, these people have already been trained to collaborate with each other but the real challenge was when unexpected things occurred that can cause disruption to the normal operation of the group. Evidently, the importance of effective communication and information sharing becomes obvious under such scenario wherein rapid exchanges in information are necessary and where swift decisions are needed. In such scenario, the culture of candor is highly applicable. The culture of candor focuses on three important elements and these are: open communication, mutual trust and transparency. In the movie, open communication was demonstrated by the sharing of technical knowledge among members of the Houston Command Center. It should also be noted that as a leader, Kranz encouraged the sharing of information by proactively seeking the advice of the members of his team. Mutual trust is also important and it applies to all members of the organization. For one, without trust, members would not openly share information to their leader. On the other hand, a leader who does not trust his members would be reluctant to ask for information and would just decide on what he think is best. In the movie though, Kranz has motivated his team to share information to each other without holding back. Transparency in the movie is effectively demonstrated by their group discussions. As seen, every time a new idea or a new problem emerges, Kranz can be seen summoning his crews to a team discussion. Everyone on the team hears the discussion and is free to discuss or voice out his opinion in such a way, they arrive at a decision that has been agreed by the majority. Evidently, the common adage ‘two heads is better than one’ becomes a dominant outcome for leaders who value transparency in their organization.
Yet there are also drawbacks to being too transparent in the process of information sharing. Some information is only shared on a need-to-know basis, which draws the limit on how much information and to whom the information is shared. One particular example is the scene in the movie wherein the ground crews realize that there are glitches in the shuttle’s hardware. In order not to alarm the astronaut that may lead them to panic, Kranz decide not to divulge the information and just keep it to themselves. In actual practice, organizations do not necessary share information indiscriminately. For security reasons, information are provided in a need to know basis, which means it is only shared if the person’s job or task is affected by the said information. Critical information that may compromise the operation of an organization should be limited only to few individuals in order to enhance security and accountability. In the modern era where information is easily shared, critical information of an organization such as trade secrets might leak to individuals outside the organization if sharing of information is not effectively managed. For the same reason, most organizations limit the amount of information that they give to their members depending on the type of jobs that they perform and most often this information can only be accessed using authorized log in information and passwords. Using this type of information sharing, in case there is a breach, the compromised information is only limited to the particular individual or department that was affected by the breach. In a way, by limiting information in a need to know basis, damage caused by information breach is also limited.
Which character in the movie do you most identify with as a leader? Which leadership practices do you share as strengths? Which leadership practices do you most need to work on developing?
I admire the leadership of Flight Director Gene Kranz in the movie and I see myself in his leadership style. Kranz is obviously good in dealing with people, which, I think, is his most important leadership strength that I also share. Kranz draws his leadership authority not from his position but in his ability to deal with the members of his team. He does not assert his position as the top man nor does he assert his authority. As observed, Kranz listens attentively and evaluates every opinion from his team members. He is there as a guide, to set the direction of the team. He empathizes with those who have shared their enormous efforts and sacrifices and also shares without hesitation his own efforts for the success of the team. Aside from being good with people, I also share Kranz’s optimistic attitude. Just like Kranz, I do not get easily distracted by difficult situations. Rather, I consider them as a challenge and an opportunity where I can show and test my abilities. Perhaps this particular attitude is what gives the passion and drive to move on even if the odds seems impossible. As what happened in the movie, Kranz did not give up on the crew of Apollo 13 and find his way by pushing his team to collaborate and think of ways on how to succeed instead of accepting failure.
On the other hand, I think I still need to develop the character and communications skills of a leader. Kranz excelled in his leadership because of his confidence, which may have been brought by knowledge and experience. It is quite obvious that Kranz is knowledgeable on what he is doing, which makes him able to make difficult decisions. Communication skills, on the other hand, are an important aspect of being a leader especially in pooling human resources and directing them towards a common vision or goal. I believe that I need to work on some of my communication skills especially on listening to other people. Most often, because of my focus on the task at hand, I sometimes ignore suggestions of the people around me and go my own way. Sometimes, I get so excited about a particular idea that my focus in only on how to apply the idea without considering seeking advice from other people that might be more knowledgeable than me. Kranz on the other hand, is accommodating of other people’s idea and he gathers all the information that he can before making any decision. I believe I need to work on this aspect and remind myself always of the importance of asking advices as other persons might have a better idea than what I have.
Apollo 13. Dir. R. Howard. 1995.
Leadership in a Complex World. "Culture of Candor." March 2015.
—. "Leadership Vision." February 2015.
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