Sample Leadership Book Review Paper on “A Quiet Place”

Introduction

Leaders use different methods to accomplish tasks and lead their followers towards achieving organizational goals and objectives. Crises are perhaps the best instances to gauge the leaders’ skills, especially in guiding the organization through and out of the crisis. Aside from entertainment, movies offer valuable lessons in different aspects of life, leadership among them. A Quiet Place is a 2018 movie on a post-apocalyptic world, where noise is a sure death-trap. Watching the movie presents an opportunity to evaluate leadership and draw lessons from the characters, particularly the main character. Through its connection with leadership theories, the movie provides great lessons in leadership presented by Lee Abbott, highlighting the confluence between transformation and trait leadership theories.

Background: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place is a post-apocalyptic movie based on a short time after the invasion of earth by extraterrestrial creatures. At the opening of the movie, a calling card states “Day 89,” probably referring to the number of days since the fall of man. The opening scene shows a desolate street, and from notice board outside a pharmacy are pictures of missing people, whose families and friends have been searching. From this scene, the movie moves into the store, where it is apparent from the movements of Abbott’s family that noise is indeed an enemy. The family moves in tiptoes and uses sign language to communicate. The Abbott’s family is made of Lee Abbott, Evelyne Abbott, Regan Abbott, Marcus Abbott, and Beau Abbott. Lee and Evelyn are the parents, while the rest are their children, Regan, a teenage deaf girl, being the eldest, while the rest are boys, Beau being the youngest.

Lee (played by John Krasinski) is the leader of the family, who has to navigate (with his family) a world where any noise is a sure call to danger and death. Adding to his leadership challenge is his teenage daughter, who defiantly wants to go with his father while training his brother (Marcus). Additionally, Regan feels responsible for the death of her little brother, Beau who she gave a toy spaceship. Beau had taken batteries, fixed them on the toy spaceship, later turning it on and was murdered by the noise-sensitive creatures. Lee has done little to alleviate Regan’s guilt over the death of her little brother. He is more concerned with finding other survivors across the world, the creatures’ weaknesses, training his scared son in the art of survival, while at the same time preparing for their incoming baby since his wife is 38 weeks pregnant.

Leadership Lessons

The movie is rife with leadership lessons that both individuals and leaders can draw. One of the most important lessons is the concept of communication. The movie highlights not only the importance of communication but also the different ways (nonverbal) individuals can communicate. Communication entails both verbal and non-verbal cues; its effectiveness depending on the tone, reactions, feelings, and body language (Nickitas 2019, p.65). Communication is especially important for leaders, given its inspirational and motivational role. Moreover, leaders with great communication skills are self-aware and knowledgeable in using different communication styles, which allow them to communicate with different people effectively.

The second lesson from the movie is preparing the next generation. However good a leader is, such a leader needs to identify and groom the next generation of leaders for when they will be away. In the movie, Lee took Marcus to out to teach him about the workings of the world. Aside from teaching him how to fish, he also taught him the acoustics of the sound and operation of the creatures. Through the training, Marcus learned that the creatures were only dangerous if the sound close to an individual is louder than the others. It is for this reason that they could shout and even talk next to a waterfall since the waterfall would mask their voices. Traditional leadership, especially in the early days and in some native communities relied on the preparation of the young generation to take up the leadership mantle from the elderly when they were gone (Preston et al. 2015, p.3). Such leaders looked for individuals who had the community’s wellbeing at heart and trained them to take up after them.

Even as leaders prepare and pass down the baton to the young generation, one concept remains important; trust. Trust is an especially important concept for leaders when they are preparing the next generation of leaders. Both the leader and the follower must have trust in each other for both personal and organizational success. DeConinck (2011) and Otken and Cenkci (2012) have identified trust as an important aspect of several leadership theories including transformational and charismatic leadership. Trust is, therefore, critical in the leadership relationship, given the negative impact that mistrust can have on the leader-follower relationship (Bligh 2017; Turaga 2013). Trust is especially evidenced in the movie, during Marcus’ training, and in his father’s final battle and sacrifice to save the family.

While preparing the next generation is important, it is also important to allow the younger generation to prove themselves, while at the same time nurturing their potential. This is a lesson present in the movie through Lee, Regan, and Marcus. While Marcus was scared of going for the training, Regan was ready to go, although her father stopped her, instead of asking her to help her mother. Lee knew Regan was capable of taking care of herself and did not necessarily require the training. However, Marcus did not know and required the training and nurturing.

Allowing followers to prove themselves and nurturing their potential goes along with motivation. Across transformational, charismatic, and trait theories of leadership, motivation is a uniting factor. Motivation, in this case, is creating an environment where followers have the tools to surmount obstacles, and encouraging them to perform their expected tasks (Robnagel 2017, p. 224). Lee motivated the scared Marcus in their fishing expedition, and even when they came back and found the red lights, motivated him to light the rockets to distract the creatures away from her mother and the baby that had just been born.

Leadership Theories

Leadership is one of the most important aspects of human life. So important for individuals and organizations is leadership that many continually ask what makes a good leader (Northhouse 2016, p. 1). Moreover, the position, role, power, influence, and ability to make things happen that leaders have are perhaps among the reasons that draw attention to leadership (Derue et al. 2011, p. 8). To explain leadership, scholars and academics have fronted different theories to present the underlying factors for different leadership styles. One of the earliest theories fronted in examining leadership is the trait theory. According to Northhouse (2016), “the trait approach was one of the first systematic attempts to study leadership” (p. 19). The approach used in trait theory was a study of inherent characteristics (traits) that made people great leaders. Trait theories, therefore, listed qualities and behaviors that good leaders had and used the qualities as measures in their understanding of leadership.

The list of qualities and behavior became obligatory characteristics, according to the early trait theorists of a successful leader. Among the traits listed as requisites for great leaders in the theory included adaptability to situations; alertness to the social environment; assertiveness; decisiveness; dependability; dominance; stress tolerance; and willingness to assume responsibility (Bolden, Gosling, Marturano, & Dennison 2003, p. 7). As the head (and leader) o his family, Lee Abbott possessed some of the traits listed as augmenting a leader according to the trait theory. Given the need for silence in the movie, Lee led his family to walk barefooted, and while he understood the need for Beau to play with the toy rocket, the explained to him the danger that came with the loud sound that the toy would produce. Through these actions, Lee showed adaptability to situations and alertness to the social environment.

While possessing the characteristics is important, according to the trait theory, it is not enough to make a leader. In a survey of leadership traits, Stogdill (1948) enthuses that leaders must possess traits such as alertness, intelligence, responsibility, initiative, persistence, self-confidence, and sociability. However, true leaders must be able to bring the traits in action and apply them to the relevant situations within which the leader is functioning (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991; Northhouse 2016, p. 20). Moreover, the trait theory argues that leadership is fluid and that leaders in one situation may not necessarily be leaders in another situation. In the movie, Lee Abbott possesses most of these traits. He is alert and attempts to save Beau from the creature when he (Beau) turns on the toy rocket at a bridge. He shows intelligence in his attempt to communicate with the outside world, make his daughter’s hearing aid, and research to find the creatures’ weaknesses. Although he successfully ticks most of the boxes in leadership traits, he fails in his leadership position to be sociable.  True to the argument that leaders are not always at the helm, Marcus, his son, takes a leadership role in reminding him (Lee) to connect with his daughter, who thinks he hates her and blames her for the death of Beau. Herein, Lee did not show leadership in the situation, although he had presented himself as a leader in other situations.

Trait theory is among the first theories to look into leadership; a fact that changed with the introduction of new approaches to leadership. One of the new approaches to leadership that has gained popularity is transformational leadership (Northhouse 2016, p. 161). Charisma and the affective nature of leadership are the mainstays of transformational leadership (Men 2014, p. 256). At the core of transformational leadership is the change and transformation of individuals and the organization itself. The growth and focus on transformational leadership directly relate to the leadership’s approach insisting on intrinsic motivation and the development of employees within the organization (Northhouse, 2016). The focus on individuals as proposed by the transformational leadership approach caters to the needs of the present-day employees who require inspiration and empowerment for both organizational and individual success (Sendjaya, 2005). The success of transformational leadership hinges upon four factors of the leadership approach including individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, the leader’s inspirational motivation, and idealized influence and charisma (Northhouse, 2016). Lee Abbott is an embodiment of transformational leadership, given his treatment and approach towards ensuring the survival of his family.

One of the four factors of transactional leadership is individualized consideration. Lee embraces the ideals of individualized consideration right from the beginning of the movie. Although Beau wanted a toy rocket, he explains to the young Beau how dangerous the rocket is considering their precarious situation. Additionally, knowing how scared and unprepared Marcus is for the new world that they live in, he takes an initiative to teach him the basics of survival. He is essentially preparing him to take up the leadership role, in case something happens to him.

Part of the transactional leadership package is preparing the next generation of leaders, which Lee is proactive in doing. However, he (Lee) was so focused on survival that he failed to apply the other four facets of transactional leadership. While Lee is intelligent, he fails to use this factor on his children, even when Regan wants to know more about his research. transactional leadership, therefore, fails in marking out Lee as a leader.

Conclusion

Movies provide entertainment as well as a lesson for its audience. A Quiet Place does much than entertain by giving valuable lessons on leadership. It highlights leadership theories, particularly the trait and transformational leadership theories. Through Lee Abbott’s leadership of his family, inherent leadership traits such as dependability; dominance; stress tolerance; and willingness to assume responsibility are highlighted. He, however, only shows individualized consideration as a factor from transformational leadership, making him fall short of a transformational leader. The movie, thus, offers valuable lessons in leadership.

 

 

References

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DeConinck, J. B. 2011. “The Effects of Ethical Climate on Organizational Identification, Supervisory Trust, and Turnover among Salespeople”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 64, no. 6, pp. 617–624.

Derue, D., S. et al. 2011. “Trait and behavioral theories of leadership: An integration and meta-analytic test of their relative validity”, Personnel Psychology, vol. 64, pp. 7-52.

Kirkpatrick, S., A. & Locke, E. 1991. “Leadership: Do Traits Matter?” Academy of Management Executive, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 48-60.

Men, L.R. 2014, “Why Leadership Matters to Internal Communication: Linking Transformational Leadership, Symmetrical Communication, and Employee Outcomes”, Journal of Public Relations Research, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 256.

Nickitas, Donna M. W2019, “First-Face Communication: Is Digital Technology Impacting Leadership Communication Effectiveness?”, Nursing Economics, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 65-66.

Northhouse, Peter,G. 2016. Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications Inc.

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Preston, J., Claypool, T.R., Rowluck, W. & Green, B. 2015, “Exploring the Concepts of Traditional Inuit Leadership and Effective School Leadership in Nunavut (Canada)”, Comparative and International Education, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 1-15.

Robnagel, Christian, S. 2017. “Leadership and Motivation”, In Marques, Joan and Dhiman, Satinder. Leadership Today: Practices or Personal and Professional Performance. Springer.

Sendjaya, S. 2005, “Morality and Leadership: Examining the Ethics of Transformational Leadership”, Journal of Academic Ethics, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 75-86.

Stogdill, Ralf, M. 1948. “Personal factors associated with leadership: A survey of the literature”, The Journal of Psychology, vol. 25, pp. 35-71.

Turaga, R., 2013, Building Trust in Teams: A Leader’s Role. Andhra Pradesh; IUP.