Erin Brockovich Submitted by: Alger Morrison Prepared for: Dr. Margaret Hopkins College of Business and Innovation The University of Toledo November 8, 2012 Often times, it takes a moment of adversity for the true leader inside someone to come to life. When nothing in life seemed to go right, Erin Brockovich, a struggling single mother of two, thought life had gotten the best of her. With her back against the wall, Brockovich’s only option was to push forward and fight for her family’s survival.
It was curiosity that led to the tipping point in her life, but more importantly, it was her own determination, hard work ethic, and perseverance that allowed her to show the people in her life that she was capable of making a difference in society. A leader lived inside Brockovich her whole life – it was a lack of passion that held it back. The answer for Brockovich laid buried in a small lawsuit that her employer reluctantly took little notice to – but it caught the attention of Brockovich. Her interest and passion to dig deeper into the case eventually developed into the largest direct-action lawsuit in history.
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More importantly, however, the case highlights the true leader inside Brockovich. Brockovich’s values and personal vision enhanced the case and transformed her into a resonant, intelligent, and trustworthy leader. The leadership style, competencies, influence tactics, and communication strategies that Brockovich developed turned her life around and simultaneously made a difference in society. Erin Brockovich takes pride in the work she does. She relies on her gut instinct and holds her ground. Her self-awareness is more accurate than not – she knows she has made mistakes and she knows she has not been the best character for her kids.
But above all she holds herself accountable and lives with a high level of integrity. Doing the right things all the time is important to Brockovich and her leadership values and vision express that. Brockovich values hard work, determination, and perseverance – so much that she did not go into work because she was trying to find evidence for a law suit she passionately wanted answers for. Her leadership vision stems from her need to prove herself. At first, people around Brockovich saw her as uneducated and having little emotional control.
As Brockovich persevered, people began to take notice that she would go to lengths end to succeed, because in Brockovich’s mind, her only option was to succeed. Her personal values and vision allowed her to bring out a significant change in people around her and as a result people began to follow her. Brockovich’s leadership style is transformational. People did not follow her because of who she was but because of what she believed in. Brockovich was not an attorney, she dressed inappropriately for the legal field, and her foul mouth was more offensive than productive.
More importantly, however, Brockovich displayed relentless drive and purpose towards the law suit against PG&E and throughout the process she increased her capacity to learn, manage tasks, and increase her self-awareness. These competencies transformed Brockovich into a leader. While unconventional at times, Brockovich used the resources at her disposal to acquire the things she needed. At first, Brockovich combined her appearance of an ‘attractive’ woman and her detachment from the legal field to get access to evidence at the water department and local university.
She was so successful at getting evidence that her employer and attorney for the PG&E case, Ed, began to believe in her capabilities. As Ed began to believe in her, so did her coworkers at the law office. As the case grew larger, Brockovich’s passion and capacity to learn expanded. She began to understand the politics of the legal field and developed a substantial amount of legal knowledge in the process. Brockovich gained the trust of her employer and the trust of the people in the community, allowing her to bring out significant change in her followers.
For the first time in her life, people respected her and people listened to what she had to say. Power and influence are two critical aspects to the success of Erin Brockovich. From the onset, Brockovich had zero expert power with no legal experience. She had little leverage available in order to use coercive power to get what she wanted. Her only power was referent – she needed the people around her to empower herself and get what she wanted. Brockovich’s attractiveness and friendly character allowed her to organize the entire community around the law suit. Her ability to connect with the families in the law suit is critical to her success.
Her power came from her ability to build trust with the community, to give consultation to those affected, and exchange a promise to those affected by PG&E that she would make things right. By organizing the community around the case, she was able to challenge the status quo, and show attorneys around her that justice was needed and she would fight until justice was served. Once Brockovich gained evidence and knowledge about the case, other sources of power began to surface. For example, when Ed discovered that there was indeed a case against PG&E, she leveraged the evidence she collected to get a pay raise and benefits.
She had something that others needed and she quickly capitalized on her ability to reward herself for the work she had done. She used reward power to renegotiate her return to the law firm. Moreover, as Brockovich organized the community around the law case and discovered more and more evidence, she was developing her own expert power. She may have not been an attorney, but she knew more about the case than any other attorney involved and she used her knowledge and expertise to make people listen to her – and eventually they did listen to her. Brockovich’s emotional intelligence made her very influential.
Brockovich successfully created a positive emotional tone with the people in the community and she connected with the needs of others in the community. She inspired the families affected by PG&E to stand up for what is right. She gave consultation to families who had nearly given up. Brockovich was influential because more than anything else she was authentic – she was so passionate about the case because she truly cared about the community, not because she was an attorney looking to make an easy buck. Brockovich’s communication competency developed throughout the movie and law suit.
At first, Brockovich was bold, had little charm, and was impatient. However, Brockovich learned to listen – first to her boyfriend George after being fired, and then to the people in the community. Brockovich learned that her tone and choice of words were significant towards getting what she wanted, whether it was with her boss Ed, with other attorneys involved with the case, or with the people in the community. As she learned to listen, she began to ask questions and influence other people’s thinking. One of the important lessons that Brockovich learned was that people just wanted to be heard.
For example, Brockovich expressed self control and patience at the end of the movie when she met with the man at the bar about working at PG&E. Had she not been patient with the man and listen to him, the outcome of the case would have been much different. The story of Erin Brockovich and the law suit against PG&E is a great example of how leaders develop and grow in response to the adversity they face in life. Brockovich was able to bring out significant change in her employer and all parties involved in the PG&E law suit because she displayed drive, purpose, and the eagerness to learn.
Her hard work, dedication towards the case, and her willingness to never gave up inspired people around her to keep fighting for what was right. Brockovich used the sources of power at hand to be successful and she developed more sources of power as the movie and case moved progressed. Brockovich learned to listen and this allowed her to develop as a leader and gain further inquiry regarding the law suit. In the end, Brockovich proved that sometimes the hardest thing to do and the right thing to do – are one in the same. Good things come to those who work hard.