Environmental description Wellton Academy and time Wellton Academy, a prestigious, preparatory school for boys in Vermont, New England is according to headmaster Nolan one of the “best school[s] in the US”. The preparatory school is an expensive private school and its philosophy insists on four pillars. Discipline, honor, excellence and tradition are the values that influence the society in Wellton, being emphasized and taught to young pupils up to the age of 18, who are most likely heirs of “White Anglo-Saxan Protestants”.
The forefathers of the “WASP”s immigrated to the United States of America coming from Great Britain, aiming for a monopoly on positions with prestige and influence. Therefore one is able to assume, that mostly rich people send their sons to Wellton Academy. Considering the time, the plot takes place in the late 50ies but is not affected by historical circumstances. Neither the outcome of the 2nd World War nor by the economical accretion of the United States, have an impact on the plot.
Analysis of John Keatings Behavior
Before one is able to interpret John Keating’s consciousness and his cognition, one need to understand and therefore analyze his behavior. In John Keating’s behavior lies a chronology of actions. Already in the first encounter with his new class, he builds up a strong identification with the group, knowing the expression “Hellton” and exposing that he was once a Wellton-student as well. He then articulates an appealing vision with the words “Carpe diem” inspiring his students to seize the day.
One could say he uses strong and expressive forms for articulating the vision during his classes. He encourages and he empowers the followers to “find [their] own walk” in order to “make [their] life extraordinary”. During the plot he becomes important for his followers in terms of support, encouragement and he also stresses out that he intends to become their mentor. Keating expresses the fact that he has high expectations and is communicating to his ollowers that through his lessons “[they] will learn to think for [themselves]” and that they “will learn to savor words and languages”.
Within the plot the followers respond to him as “my captain”, which shows that John Keating has a remarkable ability to manage the follower’s impression of him. Another of his abilities allows him to model his behaviors according to his vision. It is not only that he inspires his followers with an appealing vision; eventually he might be regarded as the personification of the vision. The climax in the chronology of his actions could be identified as his suspension from Wellton; he has taken a personal risk and makes a huge self-sacrifice.
After analyzing his behavior one is able to understand his “construal”, the way how he perceives, comprehends and interprets Wellton Academy. Having experienced Wellton Academy from the perspective of a student, he accuses it of teaching conformity. Therefore he is intrinsically motivated to teach his students individuality. In his social cognition, he selects a few students based on their different level of self-esteem and tries to create in them people who perceive the world exactly like he does. Therefore a social tuning is to be recognized.
Analyzing the group dynamics, one is able to realize that the group adopts furthermore primes John Keating’s attitude. In Neil Perry’s case one is able to recognize Keating’s “Fundamental Attribution Error”. Underestimating the social or parental relationship between Neil and his father, Keating encourages Neil to follow his passion, not knowing that Mr. Perry is very possessive about Neil’s future. As a result Neil commits suicide, which furthermore has an effect on John Keating self awareness. He realizes that he might be guilty and therefore he cries.
John Keatings Leadership Style According to Mike Vanice “Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated toward the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values. ” In fact John Keating established within Wellton Academy new standards for his followers and has managed to inspire them to source motivation for achieving the constructive long term goal, which is to always “seize the day”.
But how did he try to achieve his goals and which style of leadership does he embody? In my opinion his behavior and relation to his students lead to the belief that he embodies more than just one style. Furthermore he combines transformational and charismatic leadership styles. Firstly an attribution of transformational leadership is suitable, since his behavior meets a lot of aspects of various scientists. In accordance to Burns(1985), transformational leadership is to be recognized as a “process where leaders nd followers engage in a mutual process of ‘raising one another to higher levels of morality and motivation. ” Burns’ theory also describes that transformational leaders alter the situation by appealing to higher ideals and values. Using charismatic methods, John Keating was able to attract people to his philosophy of wisdom. Some additions were made by Bass (1985,1996) and his theory. He explains that the community feels trust, admiration, loyalty and respect for the leader. All of these values are obviously good fundamentals for a leader.
Keating makes the students aware of the importance of the task outcome or the long-term goal to “seize the day” quoting a poem of Walt Whitman dealing with the value of life. Herewith Keating expresses that they should seize the day by being an individual with an own identity. Filled with “passion, beauty, romance, poetry” they should make their life special. This would make them to “a member of the human race”. Furthermore Keating meets Bass’ theory (1985,1996) when it comes to the human motivation of the leader, describing in how a leader would affect his followers.
Gary Yukl (2007) summarized his crucial points, that a leader “increases follower motivation and performance”, which is mirrored in Knox Overstreet’s and Todd Anderson’s development considering poetic creativity. According to Bass (1985) a transformational leader incarnates several types of behavior concepts and Keating is concordant with all four of them. At first Bass describes idealized influence. Regarding the fact that John Keating was a former student of Wellton, it becomes clear that his students identify strongly with him, since he knows exactly how they think.
Besides this fact, it is generally known that teachers always have an idealized influence because of their authority. Bass’ description of the second type says that a transformational leader considers his followers individually. Keating always considers his followers’ individual development as for instance Todd Anderson’s disability to talk in front of people, Neil Perry’s parental issues or even Charlie Dalton’s admonishment to be expelled from school. In all of these affairs, Keating showed individual concerns by expressing himself or by showing emotion.
For instance, responding to Neil Perry’s death John Keating feels grief and cried. But it is not only that a transformational leader considers individually and has an idealized, influential impact on his group. Referring to Bass’ third type of leader’s behavior, inspirational motivation becomes of importance too and he emphasizes that transformational leaders inspire and motivate their fellowship. In “Dead Poet Society” Anderson, Perry, Dalton, Overstreet and others found their inspiration in John Keating, who drove them to launch the DPS.
In comparison to the other three types Keating does not meet Bass’ fourth principle of behavior talking about intellectual stimulation. Of course one is to assume, that students are intellectual stimulated by Keating since he is their teacher, but this already mentions my doubt about it. In my point of view the boys are not intellectual stimulated by Keating as their leader but more or less by him being their teacher. Indirectly he stimulated their intelligence but as a teacher and not as their leader.
These statements are all proving that John Keating is a transformational leader. R. Ackoff specified that leadership consists of guidance, encouragement, and facilitating others. Ackoff defines that a transformational leader is one who formulates an inspiring vision, “facilitates the vision, encourages short-term sacrifices and makes pursuing the vision [to] a fulfilling venture”. In order to adapt his theory one can say that in Dead Poets Society John Keating makes Todd, Neil, Knox and Charlie to pursue a self-fulfilling venture.
In my point of view it is to be recognized that John Keating is not only a charismatic person, I think he further more combines the transformational style of leadership with the charismatic one. The analysis of his behavior could be seen as a proof, since Gary Yukle expressed most of the named actions to be an indication of charismatic leaderships. However the problem in this case is, that it becomes difficult to differ in how far John Keating’s character traits indicate charismatic leadership style and not only charisma.
But in order to prove that he makes use of both styles I will first explain the indicators of charisma according to House’s theory (1977). In his theory charismatic leaders have a profound and unusual effect on followers, which is given through the individual development of each group member of the DPS. Furthermore are followers likely to believe that the leader’s belief is correct and therefore are willing to elaborate. According to House (1977) followers are strong willed to obey the leader. Because of that, the phrase “Oh captain, my captain” in the final sequence becomes of great importance.
It reflects that Keating’s students obey him although they had to sign a statement, which caused their leader’s suspension. In Houses theory it is mentioned that the group is emotionally involved with the mission and this is proved by the sequence of the final DPS secret meeting, in which emotions were revealed. When Cameron Richards told everybody, that he signed a statement through which the school’s management accuses John Keating to be responsible for Neil Perry’s death, the other pupils expressed their feelings towards Cameron accusing him to have endangered the mission.
In pursuance of House (1977) followers believe that they can contribute to the success of the mission, so does the DPS. In accordance with Shamir, House and Arthur (1993) the self-concept of a charismatic leader is composed of a hierarchy of social identities and values, which are for John Keating passion, love, romance, poetry and also creativity. In addition he is a pragmatic and goal orientated leader. Pursuant to Victor Ghebre “Most charismatic leaders are able to get others to understand their vision or goals through the use of simple stories that everyone can comprehend.
And more importantly, charismatic leadership allows the followers to clearly see their glorious place within this vision so they are more likely to vigorously defend their leader. The charismatic leader uses his charm, imagination, and inspiration to build a utopian future”, which exactly describes in how far John Keating is to be attributed as a charismatic leader. Not leaders but great leaders seem to incarnate several styles of leadership, which is why they can effectively manipulate their captive audiences, so does John Keating. Conclusion
John Keating, a teacher, an inspiration, who truly is to be evaluated as a great leader of our lifetime. His actions and his ideas have changed the mind and thinking of a group and therefore on could identify him as the Dead Poet Society’s “Social Influence”. In comparison to common experiences with teachers during college, high school, preparatory school or primary school it becomes clear that Keating’s “Individual Differences” make his teaching methods unique and open up another world of thinking in terms of relationship between students and teacher.
I conclude that the movie “Dead Poet Society” has shown us not only an ideal model of a teacher but furthermore great an ideal leader as well. References AntiRomantic. com. (2009) Dead Poets Society: Death of a Romantic. Internet. http://www. antiromantic. com/art_keating. asp#teachings. Accessed 28/10/09. AntiRomantic. com. (2009). Dead Poets Society: Articles . Internet. http://www. antiromantic. com/art_keating. asp. Accessed 28/10/09. Aronson, E. , Wilson, T. D. , Akert, R. M. (2007 ). Social Psychology (Pearson International Edition). New Jersey: Pearson Education.
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