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Organizational Behavior Series: #1 Leadership
Rhona Mitra, heroine of the riveting Underworld film series, gave a dynamic performance in the 2008 picture, Doomsday. This article uses Doomsday to explore certain concepts of leadership and leadership style, each an important aspect of Organizational Behavior – "the study of human behavior in organizational settings, the interface between human behavior and the organization, and the organization itself." - G. Moorehead and R.W. Griffin (Organizational behavior: Managing people and organizations, 1995)
"Most fantasy-action films blow their budgets in the first half-hour, and limp home with their makeup smeared. Doomsday is unusually patient, smartly saving most of its fireworks for the later innings.... 3 out of 4 stars." - David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer
Fickle Friends and Femme Fatales
The time-driven model of normative decision theory is apropos for describing the way in which the government of the United Kingdom made its decision to handle the movie's impending epidemic. With the clock ticking and options limited, how much input would Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) – enlisted by the government to help find a way to curb the spread of the virus – have in the decision-making process? Using the matrix reproduced below, an early segment of the film can be analyzed to answer this question, and concepts derived from the matrix will be emboldened and italicized.
The decision was of a very high significance. The curt Michael Canaris (assistant to the prime minister, played by David O’Hara) forewarned that if Sinclair did not achieve success within 46 hours, London and all of its residents would be left to die. This was no time to be wishy-washy; commitment to the mission was of utmost importance – all the more so because of the fact that the government apparently needed to keep some misdeeds from being exposed. But neither Michael Canaris nor Prime Minister Hatcher – the leaders (managers) of this mission – were experts in virology. They needed help. The task of finding a cure is assigned to Security Chief Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins), who, in turn, selects Eden Sinclair to head into Scotland in an attempt to locate a missing scientist’s lost research. Will she commit?
The Time-Driven Decision-Making Matrix
The viewer learns early on in the film that Sinclair has motivations for carrying out the assignment that are independent of her superiors’ goals. Nelson insists that the probing question Sinclair asks him as she is being informed of the plans of the mission is irrelevant, but Sinclair adamantly replies that it ‘matters to her’. She’s interested in the possible survivors. “This is not some personal quest I’m sending you on,” he reprimands. “Focus on your mission.” Nelson provides further background on Sinclair’s task, admonishing her not to stir up trouble with Canaris – something that she may have been inclined to do. The viewer does not yet know if Canaris is aware of Sinclair’s ulterior motives; as far as Canaris knew, she may have been fully committed to the execution of his goal. After all, ‘why wouldn’t she be?’ he may possibly have reasoned. ‘As a Major, her duty is to protect the country’s people. She’ll be wholly devoted to the mission.’ And, indeed, at least superficially, the Department of Domestic Security, Major Sinclair and her team had agreed to support the operation.
Logically, the team would have consisted of experts; after being warned that once she and the rest of her team were over the wall, there would be no back-up, Sinclair confidently commented that she felt it was “better that way.” Sinclair and her team are entrusted with weighty responsibilities, the breadth of which Canaris covers as he briefs Sinclair inside the helicopter. They would be dropped off at a wall on the British-Scottish border, take armored transports to Glasgow (which is a bit of a distance from the English border), enter Glasgow’s quarantined area, locate the laboratory that the researcher Dr. Kane worked at, and use their acumen to “pick up the trail from there”. Canaris would not dare give this assignment to a group that he felt was incompetent. Thus, based on the concepts this article has considered thus-far, the viewer could reasonably conclude that Hatcher and Canaris used the facilitative decision method. The two of them (or perhaps just Canaris) likely sat down with a close group of advisors (possibly including Security Chief Nelson), presented the problem (whilst defining boundaries, for example, that the team would need to keep a “low profile” so that, in case they did not survive, the public would be unaware that they had entered in the first place), and discussed solutions. Once the group had reached concurrence, they probably began selecting the professionals that they felt were best suited for the job, which is where Major Sinclair may have come aboard.
Adaptability is Key
This article's original question asked how much input Major Eden Sinclair had in the decision-making process. While her superiors may have engaged in facilitative decision-making, one would surmise from viewing her breviloquent briefing by Security Chief Nelson that Major Sinclair had very little, if any, say in the formation of the plan. Underscoring this conclusion is the point-blank manner in which Canaris interacts with her on the helicopter that soon would take her to the mission's site. Each of her questions is answered abruptly, her suggestion shot down as though it is unnecessary and could only have stemmed from her ignorance of the team’s plan. Everything had been decided; she was just expected to play along. Not only may Canaris not have seen a need for her input, but, from an objective standpoint, it would have been highly impractical to rearrange the strategy so soon before its execution. Time was not on their side. Further, although Sinclair may have had some sort of military or technical expertise or experience that qualified her for the mission, in this case Canaris could have been considered the expert: he knew the plan, she didn’t. Thus, following the Time-Driven Model Matrix, “deciding” could reasonably be considered the most rational decision-making method to use given the context.
What Do You Think?
Does a team benefit more from effective leaders or effective followers?
The text linked above makes the point that “Although the model offers explicit predictions as well as prescriptions for leaders, its utility is limited to the leader decision-making tasks” (Nelson 441). Leaders have to “act consistently with the prescriptions of the Vroom-Yetton-Jago model” (Nelson 441). The most effective (prescribed) course of action may very well have been for Canaris to act in a facilitative manner with Sinclair. She was obviously very knowledgeable. But, perhaps a sense of urgency, animosity toward Sinclair, or just personal hubris led him to act authoritatively rather than democratically or consultatively with her. If it really had been wiser to facilitate a decision with Sinclair rather than simply decide for her, what impact may that have had on the outcome of the mission? The text cites a study that applied the normative decision model to military generals. When the generals followed the appropriate decision method given the situation that they found themselves in, they were more successful. Could ignoring the model’s prescriptions have affected the accomplishment of Canaris’ goals? For instance, Sinclair already seemed to have a bone to pick with him. Could his bluntness have added fuel to the fire? Even before she met with Canaris, Sinclair appeared to be leaning towards alienated followership (Nelson 451). Did he only reinforce her independent and critical attitude toward him? Could facilitating have lessened that inclination? To be fair, although Sinclair did not have much input in the formation of the plan itself, she would have a great degree of autonomy in its execution. She and the team would have 46 hours to do whatever was necessary to find the cure – essentially a form of delegation, which is highly democratic (Nelson 441). Perhaps Canaris felt that his esteem of her was implied in the assignment itself and that seeking her insights further was superfluous. If this is true, then Canaris could have only hoped that Sinclair got the point.
Authority-Compliance (9,1) manager
Formal leadership in the film belonged to Prime Minister John Hatchet, and, to a degree with Michael Canaris as his assistant. Informally, Canaris could be thought of as the de facto leader since he “pulled the strings”. Formal leadership also belonged to the Department of Domestic Security and Bill Nelson, who exercised authority over Eden Sinclair.
Canaris was very directive with Sinclair.
Canaris had little concern for the individuals involved in the mission. If they failed, he ensured that their mission would remain unknown. He even told Sinclair not to bother coming back if she was unsuccessful.
Nelson was sheepish while Sinclair was effective, although somewhat alienated.
The Vroom-Yetton Contigency Model
Grasp the Ideas?
- Moorhead, G., & Griffin, R. W. (1995). Organizational behavior: Managing people and organizations (5th edition). Boston. Houghton Mifflin, (p.4)
- Nelson, Debra., Quick, J. (2013). Organizational Behavior: Science, the Real World, and You (8th edition). Mason, OH. Southwestern Cengage-Learning.
- Anand, Paul (1993). Foundations of Rational Choice Under Risk. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Vroom, Victor H. Yetton, Phillip W. (1973). Leadership and Decision-Making. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
- Chemers M. (1997). An integrative theory of leadership. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers
- Hiltbrand, David. "Odd but Slick Sci-fi Mix of the Future and past." The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 Mar. 2008. Web.
© 2015 F S Miller