Guest Post: Analysis of Nelson Mandela’s Leadership in “Invictus”

nelson mandelaMy name is Jessica Crew. I’m a graduate student at the University of Alabama studying Communication Studies and have a personal interest in business and organizational communication. For these reasons I enrolled in Dr. Campbell’s Leadership Communication course.

The exam below is an analysis of Nelson Mandela’s effectiveness as a leader in the movie InvictusThis was the final exam in the course, and, as such, we were able to fully understand and evaluate the various communication tactics employed in the dialogue.

The Assignment

The dialogue used as the basis for this exam comes the film, Invictus, released in 2009.

The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted in that country following the dismantling of apartheid. Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiated a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (from

morgan freeman as nelson mandelaYour task is to assess whether President Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) was thinking and interacting like a leader in his interaction with Jason (played by Tony Kgoroge). More importantly, you must demonstrate your ability to explain Mandela’s success as a leader, using what you have learned about the TILL system. Organize your response using the summaries in chapter 5 and 11 of your TILL textbook. All of you should consider the roles of readiness, values, and media choice as discussed in Chapter 5. And you must give specific pieces of evidence from the dialogue to support your claims.

The dialogue that appears in the table comes from a scene in which Jason, one of Mandela’s subordinates, visits Mandela because security officers from the former segregated administration have reported to Jason for work in the new integrated government. Complete your analysis in the table. Then write your opinion of whether Mandela was thinking and interacting like a leader, drawing on your analysis. You may find it helpful to watch the scene from the film.

My Response

Speaker Dialogue contributions

Your Analysis

Purpose(s) Rapport   Effects Strategy Tactics
Jason Sorry to disturb you.
Mandela You look agitated, Jason. Directing Positive Off record Be cursory[K1]
Jason That’s because I’ve got four Special Branch cops in my office.
Mandela What have you done? Directing Negative On record plainly[K2] Be brief
Jason Me? Nothing. They say they’re the Presidential bodyguard. They have   orders . . . Signed by you.
Mandela Yes. They’ve had special training those boys – with SAS. And lots of   experience. They protected de Klerk. Informing Positive On record plainly Be explicit
Jason Yes, but
Mandela [interrupting] You asked for more men, didn’t you? Direct Negative Off record Be cursory
Jason Yes, but
Mandela [interrupting] In public, when people see me, they see my bodyguards, too. You represent me, directly. The rainbow nation starts here. . . Reconciliation   starts here. Directing Negative Off record Be irrelevant
Jason Reconciliation?! Mandiba, not long ago they tried to kill us! Maybe even these four guys. They tried and, often, they succeeded!
Mandela Yes, I know. Forgiveness starts here, too. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon, Jason. . . Please try   it.[K3] Directing Positive Off record Be figurative
Jason Yes, Madiba. Sorry to disturb you.

In-depth analysis of dialogue

When Mandela says, “You look agitated Jason,” he is going off record to direct Jason by being figurative. Mandela uses this strategy and tactic instead of going on record plainly by stating, “Tell me what’s wrong.” We know that this is effective because Jason understands Mandela’s meaning and explains why he is agitated.

When Mandela asks, “What have you done?” Mandela is directing Jason to tell him what he did. This is plain on the record briefly. It has a negative rapport effect because Mandela is assuming that Jason did something wrong, when Mandela actually requested that the men be there (and it seems had forgotten about it). It is an effective strategy and tactic because if Jason had done something wrong the situation could be urgent.

When Mandela says, “Yes. They’ve had special training those boys – with SAS. And lots of experience. They protected de Klerk.” He is giving Jason more information about the guard. He is informing on the record plainly.

When Mandela interrupts Jason to ask, “You asked for more men, didn’t you?” Mandela’s primary goal is to direct Jason; Mandela goes off the record and asks this question instead telling Jason to shut up and quit complaining because Mandela complied with Jason’s request for more help.

Jason then begins to protest and again is interrupted by Mandela: “In public, when people see me, they see my bodyguards, too. You represent me, directly. The rainbow nation starts here. . . Reconciliation starts here.” The primary purpose of this off the record message is to direct Jason to get used to working with these new men—that is the future of South Africa that Mandela is trying to shape. The content of the message is irrelevant in that it does not directly depict the message that Mandela is trying to send, which is “Get used to it, bud.” The secondary purpose is to value; Mandela shows that he values Jason as well as the other guard members because he mentions that the guards represent him and the future of the nation. This is intended to have a positive effect, but only makes Jason indignant.

After Jason’s indignant response, Mandela says, “Yes, I know. Forgiveness starts here, too. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon, Jason. . . Please try it.” In this line Mandela is directing Jason to move forward emotionally and try to get past the resentment he seems to harbor against these men. The real message in this line is, “It is time to move on. Get over your personal issues with these men. Something bigger is at stake.” By going off record, Mandela is able to maintain his rapport with Jason and not jeopardize Jason’s level of commitment. The tactic Mandela uses is “be figurative” by using fear and forgiveness metaphorically. In the last sentence he says, “Please try it,” but it is actually a directive, Mandela is just being polite by using the word please.

Analysis of Mandela as a leader

1. What is the purpose driving Mandela to communicate and how urgent is the need to act? The purpose is to direct Jason to adjust to the new way things are going to be done now that Mandela is President of South Africa. The need to act is fairly urgent because Mandela needs to immediately begin his term as President in a way that reflects the change he is implementing and persuades the country (both blacks and whites) to feel loyalty and commitment to the new regime, for lack of a better word. In this excerpt of dialogue Mandela is trying to direct one of his in-group members to accept his white co-workers and embrace the rainbow nation that Mandela is constructing. Mandela effectively communicates this and manages to maintain rapport with his group member.

2. Is the member one of the in-group? Some of Mandela’s individual messages above are more effective than others. Overall, Mandela is an effective leader. Jason is clearly part of Mandela’s in-group and this helps with much of the communication above. That Jason is part of the in-group is evidenced in the statements where he refers to Mandela as “Mandiba” a name used amongst the in-group members that identify with Mandela up to this point.

3. How will the message affect the member’s ego needs? Mandela consistently goes off the record in the dialogue to protect his rapport with Jason—thus tending Jason’s ego needs. He clearly values Jason and the other members of the guard by speaking of them as the future of the rainbow nation and including Jason by speaking of him and the other guards as representatives of Mandela himself.

4. How will the message affect the member’s autonomy needs? The only way that Jason’s autonomy is threatened is that Mandela does not give him the option of working with the Special Branch cops. Instead he tells him (off the record) that these are Jason’s new co-workers, that Jason needs to get over his anger, and that he needs to move forward by forgiving these men.  Although this threatens Jason’s autonomy, Mandela negotiates this by speaking of forgiveness and inspiring Jason to be a good example for the rainbow nation.

Overall Mandela is an effective leader in this management situation. The media choice of this exchange is effective as Mandela is able to engage his member more because he is speaking to Jason in person. Although Jason’s not ready to comply with Mandela’s decision to hire these new guard members at first, he is willing to comply with Mandela’s directives by the end of the conversation. This is evidenced by his acquiescent statement, “Yes, Mandiba. Sorry to disturb you.” Mandela clearly values his organizational members, and fosters commitment and loyalty by including Jason and the other guards as an important part of changing the feelings of the nation.

[K1]I think you’re the only one who analyzed this “my” way!

[K2]Not sure about this one. How can he direct plainly, using an interrogative?

[K3]What about this? Doesn’t this make the purpose/message fairly clear?

Guest Post: The effects of communication strategies on rapport

My name is Aylin Wispeler. I am from Germany and at the moment I am doing my exchange semester as an undergraduate student at University of Alabama. I am here to deepen my knowledge in management and communication in order to become an effective leader in my future. For this reason, I am taking Dr. Campbell´s  “Leadership Communication” class. It has given me a deep insight in effective communication strategies.

The assignment below is a comparison of two dialogues from the movie “The Bounty.” Both conversations are between the captain, William Bligh, and the executive officer, John Fryer. Since this assignment was the final assignment from Dr. Campbell´s book, Thinking and Interacting Like a Leader, it was a great opportunity to use our gained knowledge in order to assess the effectiveness of Mr. Bligh´s leadership. The two dialogues show, on the one hand, why it is important to adjust your communication strategy to the situation and, on the other hand, the effects and consequences on rapport and relationships if strategies are used ineffectively.

The Assignment

Read the dialogue from “The Bounty.” The crew of a ship has recently sailed from England in 1787 with their captain, William Bligh (played by Anthony Hopkins in this 1984 film) and executive officer John Fryer (played by Daniel Day-Lewis). This interaction takes place during their attempt to sail around Cape Horn during a very dangerous storm.

Fryer: We should turn back. 

Bligh: What?

Fryer: In my opinion, we should put about.

Bligh: In my opinion, we should not, sir. We keep on going.

Fryer: We’ll never make it around the Horn. We MUST turn back! . . . I want my opinion in the log, [Sir].

Bligh: Very well, Mr. Fryer. You’ll get what you wish.

Fryer: The ship can’t stand it!

Bligh: The ship can stand it very well.

Fryer: And how long do you think the men can stand it?

Bligh: As long as the officers can, Mr. Fryer.

Your task is to assess whether Bligh was interacting like a leader by identifying the management situation he faced and the communication strategies he chose for his messages. You should gauge the effectiveness of his communication strategies for this management situation.

Now compare the following dialogue that takes place when Bligh addresses the officers and crew after surviving the storm by giving up the attempt to sail around Cape Horn. He begins by announcing that he is replacing Mr. Fryer with Mr. Christian, as second in command.

Fryer: [heads for the door in disbelief]

Bligh: Mr. Fryer, come back here. [Fryer keeps walking.] Mr. Fryer, sir, COME IN HERE! [Fryer turns and moves back near Bligh]

Fryer: This is an outrage.

Bligh: Mr. Fryer . . .

Fryer: [interrupting] In all my years at sea . . .

Bligh: [interrupting] Your years at sea! Good lord, man, if I’d known your nature, I would not have accepted you as bosun of a river barge.

Fryer: Must I suffer this in front of the men?

Bligh: You’ll suffer my correction whenever you’re at fault, sir!

Fryer: [raising voice] WHAT fault, sir?

Bligh: [screaming] God damn it, man, you turned your back on me!!

Fryer: And for that I apologize.

Bligh: Very well . . .

Fryer: But I protest . . .

Bligh: [interrupting] You protest, do you?

Fryer: I am master of the boat.

Bligh: [screaming even more loudly] And I say I am COMMANDER. By law . . . DO YOU UNDERSTAND!!

Your task is to assess whether Bligh was interacting like a leader by identifying the management situation he faced and the communication strategies he chose for his messages. Gauge the effectiveness of his communication strategies for this management situation. Finally, compare the effectiveness of Bligh in thinking and interacting like a leader in the two management situations.

My Response

The organizational goal for Mr. Bligh in this situation is to convince Mr. Fryer of their ability to sail around Cape Horn despite the storm. Mr. Bligh does not compromise and sticks with his own opinion during the first conversation. Even though Mr. Fryer seems really concerned about the well-being of the crew and mentions doubts, Mr. Bligh does not change his mind. Throughout the first conversation, Mr. Bligh expresses his opinion by going ON RECORD PLAINLY. By using the “Be first” tactic, he shows from the beginning that he does not support the idea of turning around. In most of his contributions he is very brief “We keep on going.” or “The ship can stand it very well.” The only time, he kind of responds to Mr. Freyer´s needs — or rather demands — is when he says “Very well, Mr. Freyer. You´ll get what you wish.” Therefore, it could be interpreted as going ON RECORD POLITELY by being positive. He addresses his member by name. Nevertheless, taking the second conversation into account, it could also be seen as going OFF RECORD by being figurative. I think so because he might be sarcastic when saying “You´ll get what you want” not responding to his wish that his opinion will be mentioned in the log but rather his demand to turn back, except for the fact that he will be the only one going back without the captain and crew following.

In my opinion, Mr. Bligh was not acting like a leader because, despite the serious situation, he did not listen to the concerns of his executive officer but instead threatened his ego and autonomy needs. He goes ON RECORD PLAINLY, showing him no interest in his concerns and therefore threatening their rapport.

In the second dialogue, Mr. Bligh´s initial goal was to inform the crew about replacing Mr. Fryer with Mr. Christian, but it changes to Mr. Bligh informing Mr. Freyer about his disappointment. Generally, it seems like Mr. Bligh has the need to underline that he his the only authority, the only one on board giving commands. Taking the first dialogue into account, it seems like Mr. Bligh realizes he was wrong in his assumptions and tries to blame Mr. Freyer.

From Mr. Bligh´s point of view the situation is an urgent issue and, like in the first conversation, he does not consider the quality of his relationship to Mr. Freyer. He chooses to go ON RECORD PLAINLY. He is brief and direct in his accusations, “COME IN HERE!” and “And I say I am COMMANDER!”  Not only is he threatening Mr. Freyer´s ego and autonomy needs by blaming him for his own mistakes but also by raising his voice. Furthermore, you can see that Mr. Freyer is obviously threatened when he says “Must I suffer this in front of the men?” and Mr. Bligh´s answer “You´ll suffer my correction wherever you’re at fault, sir!” shows again that he does not consider any personal relationship.

Also in this second conversation, Mr. Bligh does not act like a leader. He is very offensive in his words. He is only concerned about his own well-being and his authority being acknowledged. Obviously he does not care about threatening rapport or the autonomy and ego needs of his members.

All in all, Mr. Bligh is not effective in his communication. Even though he delivers the message (more than clearly), he threatens rapport in such a negative way that trusting and committing to him as a leader is very difficult for his members.

Guest Post: A Lesson from Joe Clark on Communicating On Record Plainly

My name is Tucker Burke and I am a senior at the University of Alabama, majoring in Management Information Systems. I will be graduating in May before I begin my career at Ernst & Young in Nashville, TN. As a part of my education, I have been working to complete a specialization in Management Communication, which includes Dr. Kim’s class on leadership and communication. My entry below comes from an exercise that we completed after reviewing Joe Clark’s reaction to his new colleagues in the timeless movie, Lean on Me.

This assignment, along with the class and specialization, give great perspective on the importance of communication in any business setting. As someone aspiring to someday be in a leadership role within a company, I appreciate examples like those in Lean on Me that show exemplary leadership in a critical situation.

The Assignment

Read the dialogue from the film Lean on Me. (You can listen to the audio at the American Rhetoric website.) Joe Clark (played by Morgan Freeman) has been hired to take over Eastside High, an inner-city school with very serious problems, and is addressing the faculty and staff for the first time. How would you characterize Clark’s purpose? What tactics does he use to signal that his purpose is paramount? How effective is he in this management situation? Explain the manager’s effectiveness by talking about any predicted changes in relationship quality and organizational effectiveness after this meeting.

The scene opens with Mr. Clark being introduced by Mr. O’Malley, the Vice Principal who waxes eloquent welcoming Clark to Eastside.

Clark: [interrupting] You may sit down, Mr. O’Malley. If you could [run this school] I wouldn’t be here, . . . ? No one talks in my meetings. . . . Take out your pencils and write. I want the names of every hoodlum, drug dealer, and miscreant on my desk by noon today. Reverend Slappy . . . you are now the Chief Custodian, . . . You will scour this building clean. Graffiti goes up, it’s off the next day. Is that clear?

Slappy: Yes, sir, . . .

Clark: Detention students can help you. Let them scrub this place for awhile . . .This is my new Dean of Security, Mr. William Wright. He will be my Avenging Angel, as you teachers reclaim the halls. . . . Mr. Zorella, you are now my new Head Football Coach. . . . Mr. Darnell will be your assistant. You know why you’re being demoted, Mr. Darnell? Because I’m sick and tired of our football team getting pushed all over the field. Thank you. Sit down. . . . And if you don’t like it Mr. Darnell, you can quit. Same goes for the rest of you. You tried it your way for years. And your students can’t even get past the Minimum Basic Skills Test. . . . They’ve given me less than one year . . . to turn this place around . . . so the State will not take us over to perform the tasks which you have failed to do! . . . Forget about the way it used to be. This is not a damn democracy. We are in a state of emergency and my word is law. There’s only one boss in this place, and that’s me.

My Response

Mr. Clark lets it be known immediately that he means business. His directive tone and way of interrupting the meeting at the beginning make it very clear to the faculty and staff that he has control of the situation.

Similar to our reading in chapter 7 of the TILL textbook, Mr. Clark follows each one of the four main tactics of the “On Record Plainly” strategy for communicating. He is explicit when stating at the beginning: “No one talks in my meetings” as opposed to saying something like: “I would prefer that you not talk during this meeting.” The team is left with no doubt about what his expectations are. Similarly, the way that Mr. Clark goes about relaying his instructions is very concise and organized. He talks to the teachers as a whole at first before going individually through the new roles of the custodial staff, football coaches, etc.

In my mind, this is one of the best examples of the “On Record Plainly” strategy because of Clark’s effectiveness at taking control. Despite the individual responses and rapport damage to relationships with single teachers, the organizational goal is far more urgent and will be achieved. Having such a strong leader will cause more of the school teachers to change the broken school.

Guest Post: Effective Leadership in “Norma Rae”

My name is Eric Longenecker. I am a senior and graduating in December 2012 with a degree in Management Information Systems. I am taking part in Leadership Communications (MGT 422) as a part of my specialization, Management Communication.

This is an exam I submitted in response to whether leadership was effective or not in the movie “Norma Rae.” Personally, this assignment fit my goals very well. I came into this specialization hoping to improve my leadership and communication skills. What better class to take, right? This assignment gave me a good glimpse of how to review the way others become leaders.

Background on the Film Used for the Assignment

The leader behavior used as the basis for this exam comes the film, Norma Rae, released in 1979.

Norma Rae finds Sally Field cast in the title role, a minimum-wage worker in a cotton mill in Georgia in the 1970s. The factory has taken too much of a toll on the health of Norma Rae’s family for her to ignore her Dickensian working conditions. After hearing a speech by New York union organizer Reuben (Ron Leibman), Norma Rae decides to join the effort to unionize her mill. This causes dissension at home when Norma Rae’s husband, Sonny (Beau Bridges), assumes that her activism is a result of a romance between herself and Reuben. Despite the pressure brought to bear by management, Norma Rae successfully orchestrates a shutdown of the mill, resulting in victory for the union and capitulation to its demands. Based on a true story, Norma Rae is the film for which Sally Field won her first Oscar.

The original trailer for the film may give you insight into the context of the leader’s behavior.

The Assignment

Your task is to assess whether Norma Rae was thinking like a leader in the scene described below. More importantly, you must demonstrate your ability to explain Norma Rae’s success or failure as a leader of the mill workers, using what you have learned so far about the TILL system. Organize your response using the four questions that summarize TILL on pp. 51-52 of your Thinking and Interacting Like a Leader textbook. You should consider the roles of readiness, values, and media choice as discussed in Chapter 5. And you must give specific pieces of evidence from the dialogue (or script) to support your claims. You cannot perform adequately by providing BS about the movie or about leadership. Your response must apply the terminology from TILL in a persuasive analysis of leader behavior.

The excerpt comes from the original script. It describes a scene in the mill where Norma Rae works. She is on the mill floor where all of the workers can see her. Clipboard in hand, Norma goes straight to the bulletin board where the company that owns the mill has posted a letter. It tells the white mill workers that black workers are going to run the union and use it to take control and push them around. Norma and the other union organizers know the company posted the letter to keep the union out of the mill. If they can show the letter to attorneys, they can use it to gain support for the union.

Norma stands in front of the letter and writes briskly, snatching a phrase off the letter with a glance, then looking down as her hand scrawls quickly. In order to transcribe accurately, she reads each phrase aloud.

NORMA (quoting): . . . that where unions are strikes occur. Strikes mean loss of work, loss of pay, and often loss of jobs. . . . Strike and trouble, which often end up in serious violence. . .

BOSS LUJAN: You can’t take down that letter.

NORMA: It’s up here on the bulletin board – and I’m gonna copy it.

BOSS PETERS (walking up): Norma, you better not.

NORMA:  I’m gonna take down every word of this letter. It’s my break time, and I’m gonna take down every word.

Boss Peters reaches out for her arm, but she pulls away fiercely.

NORMA: Just keep out of my way! I’m gonna take down this letter!

BIG BOSS MASON (approaching): Hello, Norma.

NORMA: Why, Mr. Mason, you know who I am.

BIG BOSS MASON: Norma, you just put your pencil and paper away.

Norma ignores him and continues to write as rapidly as she can.

BIG BOSS MASON: You just stop what you’re doing – right now – ‘cause you’re about to leave.

NORMA: You better not put a hand on me.

Everyone looks at Big Boss Mason.

BIG BOSS MASON: The law’s coming and it’s gonna take you right out of this plant.

NORMA: Mr. Mason, I started this and – I’m gonna finish this –

The men are stunned into silence. She calmly finishes, folds her notes, and shoves them in her pocket.

BOSS PETERS: Let’s go to the office, Norma.

Everyone on the mill floor watches as they walk to the office. Two other company men join them in the office. The group of men try to bully her but she won’t back down.

BIG BOSS MASON (exploding): I don’t want you on the premises. You make a phone call to your husband and tell him to come fetch you. I want you out of here right quick.

NORMA: You’re gonna have to call the law to get rid of me. And you better make it the Sheriff, too. It better be Sheriff Lamar Miller to come get me, it better be him, it better not be any policeman, ‘cause he was a friend of my daddy’s. I got a jealous husband and he knows Lamar and I won’t just go with anybody. Lamar Miller’s the Sheriff of Millageville so he better be the one.

She walks out of the office and goes back to the looms. She merely stands there. Everyone on the floor watches in silence. A policeman approaches her.

NORMA: It’s gonna take you and the police department and the fire department and the National Guard to get me out of here. I’m waiting on the Sheriff to come drive me home and I’m not budging until he arrives.

Keeping her eye on the policeman, she fumbles for a piece of cardboard and her lipstick. She writes something. Then she hoists herself on top of a table. She holds her sign high over her head with both hands and slowly turns in a circle so that everyone can read what she has written.


The first hand in the crowd to rise is Norma’s mother’s. Slowly the old woman’s arm rises above her head and stays there. The man next to her follows. James Brown raises his. Lucius White is next. George Hubbard follows. One by one, they join in. Norma continues to turn slowly with the sign held high. Each time she turns another batch of hands shoot up, holding their arms in the air, black and white. Finally, the entire mill floor is a forest of upraised hands. Finished, she climbs down. The Sheriff escorts her out of the mill and into a police car.

My Response

Norma Rae was able to effectively lead the workers in the mill. She did not have to do much coaxing of the mill workers to get them on her side. In fact, it was almost as if she created a massive in-group in which all workers on the mill floor were in it. Norma Rae knew what she had to do to get her co-workers on her side. All they needed was for one person to stand up to management and lead the way.

Norma Rae’s organizational purpose of her message was to direct members. She earns the respect of her members when she stands up to Big Boss Mason. She makes it very clear that she has every intention of being instrumental in forming a union. The action she is supporting is extremely urgent. When she says “Just keep out of my way! I’m gonna take down this letter,” she is alerting the members that they cannot let Big Boss Mason stand in their way of forming a union. And any resistance (such as the letter) is just a scare tactic used by Big Boss Mason and the mill.

As mentioned earlier, it was simply as if Norma Rae created one large in-group that each mill worker was a part of. As far as Big Boss Mason and the management at the mill is concerned, Norma Rae is definitely in their out-group.

“Keeping her eye on the policeman, she fumbles for a piece of cardboard and her lipstick. She writes something. Then she hoists herself on top of a table. She holds her sign high over her head with both hands and slowly turns in a circle so that everyone can read what she has written.”

It is in the above passage in which Norma Rae makes all the mill workers a part of her in-group. As soon as she came out of Big Boss Mason’s office, she made it very clear that she was ready to make a statement and she was going to make all the mill workers a part of it. Not leaving even a single person out is an example of very effective leadership. At this point, the mill workers are willing to go along with Norma Rae. If for nothing else, they would agree with her simply because of the respect she earned by standing up to Big Boss Mason.

Norma Rae’s message will strongly and positively affect the ego needs of the members. She effectively met the need that each member had to be included by others. She made all of the mill workers a part of what was about to happen. With each member who went along with the idea of a union, Norma Rae’s message became stronger, and she gave everyone the opportunity to be valued. The script says, “Everyone on the floor watches in silence.” She knew she had the attention of the entire floor. Through her silent actions that would follow, she delivers an effective message to each member and values every hand that is raised. This is an extremely effective example of leadership.

Meeting the autonomy needs of each member might have been the most effective display of leadership in the entire passage by Norma Rae. She does not demand anything from any of the members. She stands silently on the table. All she does is take a piece of cardboard and writes one simple word on it, “UNION.” As she turns slowly around to all of the members, she says nothing to anyone. All she does is give them a choice. Now, each member believes that agreeing with the union is his own choice. The members make their own choices in the following passage:

“The first hand in the crowd to rise is Norma’s mother’s. Slowly the old woman’s arm rises above her head and stays there. The man next to her follows. James Brown raises his. Lucius White is next. George Hubbard follows. One by one, they join in. Norma continues to turn slowly with the sign held high. Each time she turns another batch of hands shoot up, holding their arms in the air, black and white. Finally, the entire mill floor is a forest of upraised hands.”

As they each raise their own hands, they are validating themselves. The members feel freedom to raise their hand and agree with Norma Rae.

In terms of readiness, clearly each member is ready for this message. The script states that each member has raised his or her hand. All the members needed was someone to step up against the boss, and that made them ready to deliver their own message. Clearly, Norma Rae shares many of the same values as the other members. It seems as though none of the members are satisfied with the current situation at the mill. Norma Rae had to have known this, or she would not have been as willing to step up against Big Boss Mason in front of the entire mill. She shows effective leadership by  knowing the values of the members she is trying to affect. Norma Rae effectively chooses to present the message face-to-face, but she does not say a single word when addressing the audience. She writes the message in one single word. By utilizing face-to-face and written communication, she is able to positively affect the autonomy and ego needs of the audience simultaneously. Her leadership choices were extremely effective, and she did not waste any opportunity she had.

The bottom line is that Norma Rae knew exactly what she had to do. She gave each member the freedom to decide, but she showed them how important it was that they side with having a union. So, while each member felt individual freedom about their decision, they all still knew exactly what choice needed to be made. Norma Rae sold her message while valuing, freeing, and directing the members, and it was extremely effective. This is why her leadership got the job done.

Guest Post: Confronting an employee


My name is Derek Longenecker, and I am an undergraduate in the University of Alabama MIS (Management Information Systems) program. I am entering a new phase in my life as I graduate this December, so I took Leadership Communication (MGT 422) and will complete the Management Communication Specialization to better prepare myself for communication in a business environment.

The specific exercise discussed below is a perfect example of that communication situation in which a boss confronts an employee for an off-putting attitude with co-workers. In all, a situation like this is why I have pursued a Management Communication Specialization.

The Assignment

Read the dialogue between a manager, John, and his direct report, Pete. Your task is to assess whether John was thinking like a leader during this interaction, using what you have learned from your book [Thinking and Interacting Like a Leader]. First, assess the underlying organizational purpose and John’s actions during the dialogue. Second, assess how the interaction is likely to affect Pete’s ego (desire to feel valued) and autonomy needs. Third, predict the effect of this interaction on the relationship between John and Pete. Point to specific examples in the dialogue to support your assessment. Finally, consider whether the effect of this interaction on the leader-member relationship would be different depending on Pete’s status as an in-group or out-group member.

John: I’d like to talk with you about building personal relationships. My opinion is that many people don’t understand you from a business standpoint or a business standpoint. For some reason, people have this image of you as being very hard core, controlling, and insensitive, and I don’t think that’s true.

Pete: Yeah.

John: I think that you’re real sensitive, but sometimes you’re unwilling to share that sensitivity with others. You need to open yourself up to people because it’s a lot easier for them to understand that you’re caring and that you want to dot’s right for the business and for them.

Pete: With the technicians or team leaders, I always look for their suggestions and their input. I rarely make decisions for people. But somehow the work team sees me this way. The first time I realized it was at our off-site. Smith said he saw me as very controlling, very direct. It shocked me. I went home and told my wife, Peg, and she laughed.

John: [laughs]

Pete: So, to me, it’s really two different faces.

John: The other data point I have is that some people outside the department made remarks about your controlling behavior. A group manager said, We ought to put Pete in Industrial Relations to soften him up some.”

Pete: [laughs]

John: So, other people have this hard-core image.

Pete: Well, there’s probably some validity.

John: You carry a tremendous load for the module. I know you have a lot of irons in the fire, and you work long and hard. I don’t want to tell you to stop doing that, but to some degree you have to in order to establish relationships. I think that you can achieve a better balance. In my first three or four years, I was a lot like you. I thought if I wasn’t busy, I wasn’t contributing. I got a lot of feedback from secretaries especially. I would go in and say, “Here’s what I want. Don’t ask me how I’m doing today. Don’t give m any of this chit-chat about what the weather’s like cause I’m here for business. And that’s why you’re here, too, by the way.”

Pete: [laughs]

John: They told me that I acted like they were the lowest people on the totem pole, and I never intended that. But in the way that I behaved, that’s the image that they had of me.

Pete: I think I do that with the work team. I guess that’s what I’m hearing. [silence]

(Adapted from Fairhurst & Sarr 1996:104, 118)

My Response

In this example, I think John has two main purposes in delivering this message to Pete. First, he informs him. John has gotten reports from people both inside and outside the department that Pete is “hardcore and insensitive.” Second, John values him. Despite all the reports, John still conveys how valuable Pete’s work is to the department. Pete is there to get his job done, and John acknowledges his hard work.

In this interaction, Pete’s ego and autonomy needs are affected. In the same way John values Pete, he also satisfies some of his ego needs when he says, “You carry a tremendous load for the module. I know have a lot of irons in the fire, and you work long and hard.” I believe that any employee who heard such a thing from their manager would be thrilled.

This interaction affects Pete’s autonomy needs a bit differently, however. Going forward, Pete may feel that he can’t really act like himself while at work. His natural tendency is to get work done without concern for the feelings of or relationships with those around him. After this talk, Pete will have to change the way he reacts to certain situations, and he’ll have to change it according to his boss’s suggestions. For example, John suggests that Pete achieve more balance between tasks and relationships when he says “I don’t want to tell you to stop doing that, but to some degree you have to in order to establish relationships. I think that you can achieve a better balance.”

I believe that this interaction will improve the relationship between Pete and John. In fact, I think Pete will feel that he can trust John with how he feels about situations. John encourages Pete to show his feelings and reactions more. To that point, this interaction will also encourage Pete to develop more in-depth relationships with co-workers and that includes with John.

Finally, I believe this interaction would have a better effect if the employee is in the manager’s in-group. If the employee is in the out-group, he may feel alienated even more by such a conversation. An out-group member may respond to such an interaction as negative criticism, whereas an in-group member may see such an interaction as constructive advice.

Guest Post: The effects of leader communication on teams

My name is Aylin Wispeler. I am from Germany and at the moment I am doing my exchange semester as an undergraduate student at University of Alabama. I am here to deepen my knowledge in management and communication in order to become an effective leader in my future. I will begin my required internship in only a few months. In my opinion leadership, and especially communication, involves much more than only getting a message across.

Being enrolled in Dr. Campbell’s class “Leadership Communication” helps me gain the necessary knowledge and learn the basis for effective communication. Analyzing dialogues from movies helps to get a feeling for do’s and dont´s in management.

This assignment involved the analysis of two dialogues. The first one comes from the film “Miracle”, the other one from the film “Hoosiers”. Both movies show interactions between a sports coach and his team but in a completely different way. Therefore we had to compare the behavior of both coaches and decide whether they acted as a leader or manager of their team. I liked the exercise we were assigned because it included two great movies which show in an impressive way what effect leader communication has on people in teams.

The Assignment

Read the dialogue from the film Miracle, which recounts the story of the U.S. hockey team’s miracle performance during the 1982 Olympic Games under coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell). Then read the dialogue from the film Hoosiers, about a high school basketball team in small-town Indiana led by Coach Dale (played by Gene Hackman). Use Table 1a in your book [Thinking and Interacting Like a Leader] to compare the behaviors of the two coaches. Do the coaches act as managers or leaders in each situation? Give specific evidence to support your answer.

My Response

Coach Brooks appears to be very task-oriented and is therefore rather called a manager. He wants his team to win the Olympics at any price. It is obvious that he has clear goals and procedures, when one of his players says he can not play because he is hurt, Brooks immediately says “I got no time for quitters” and “…you candy ass”. There is no social support or any interest in personal needs; the only thing that matters is to win. In order to achieve the wanted output, you can say that Brooks uses his player as a tool. For him, the players are more the tools he needs to win rather than individuals that need support and motivation. By calling the players names like “candy ass” he thinks that will prevent them from quitting or being weak. The dialogue shows the team around Brooks as a clear hierarchy; Brooks as the coach has the control over his players. He is in command and makes decisions: “Put on your gear!” and “I want you to be a hockey player!!”. Brooks tries to be effective but does not appear to achieve it in a very efficient way. Instead of communicating with his team in a supporting and motivating way, he rather commands them what to do.

The behavior of Coach Dale can be described mainly as relationship-focused. He appears to be a leader for his team. On the one hand he is the coach that the whole team respects and listens to. But on the other hand, coach Dale is a friend to his players, supporting and motivating them. Even though he is the coach, he wants to be close to his players, building a cohesive team. This is clearly seen in the dialogue when the team, including coach Dale, start huddling before the game shouting “TEAM!”. Coach Dale shows interest in individual and personal needs when he asks the team “anybody have anything they wanna say?”. He acts really considerate and respectful in front of his players: “I wanna thank you”. He knows how to encourage the team. Also the team seems to appreciate the coach: “let´s win for the coach”. The coach has a really effective and efficient way of communicating with his team. He knows how to make them feel united and respected. He gives every player the feeling he is an important part of the team. He is not only motivating them but also giving them social-emotional support, which becomes very obvious when he closes his speech with the words “I love you guys.”

Concluding, it appears that there is a big difference between the two coaches. Brooks on the one side is very task-oriented, being only the commanding manager for his team. On the other side, Coach Dale tries to achieve goals in a very relationship-oriented way. He motivates his team and tries to support them whenever and wherever possible. It is obvious that there is a much stronger coherence in Coach Dale’s team. The players appreciate their coach and his efforts, whereas personal needs seem more suppressed and irrelevant in Coach Brooks’ team. For him the main thing that matters is triumph not team support and spirit.

In my opinion Coach Dale is definitely the more effective leader because he knows how support, motivation and active communication enhances the satisfaction and effectiveness of a team.

Leadership Model from Table 1a Coach Brooks (Miracle) Coach Dale (Hoosiers)
Hersey Blanchard Tri-Dimensional Clear goals and procedures Social-emotional support
Michigan Leadership Studies Output, employee as a tool Interest in individuality and personal needs
McGregor´s Theory X Hierarchical, control of people Motivation
Ohio State Leadership Studies Goal-achievement Consideration, respectful