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Leadership in the Film “Gladiator” by Ridley Scott

Leadership is an enigma for all supervisors who sooner or later face the challenge of managing the work of their subordinates. The sense of enigma becomes evident when it becomes evident that some people become leaders due to their authority, which is not that favorable, and others inspire people and lead them in a more natural and efficient way, without application of some structured authority or power entrusted to a person by the occupied position. Not everyone can become a leader, and even intense training and learning will not always make a person a good leader – the very concept of leadership requires a huge set of natural and acquired characteristics of a person and at times equals the unique secret of success. A leader should be strong and inspiring; he or she should share the beliefs and values of his followers, communicate the message effectively and treat the followers ethically, etc.

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There are many factors that should be naturally unified in one person to make him or her a leader, and at times one can think of the natural selection when observing a leader and his/her traits implemented in real life. One of such cases can be seen in the film Gladiator – the General Maximus who used to be a grand person in the Roman Empire, the outstanding war leader and then was pushed to the extremes by the wicked betrayal of his Emperor’s son, Commodus. However, even being a slave and then being urged to perform at gladiator battles, Maximus does not lose his dignity and strength, being able to lead and inspire people, finally achieving the goal of punishing the wicked rulers who harm his beloved country (MacDonald, 2000).

There are many supervisory techniques visible in the conduct of Maximus throughout the film. First of all, one should see the implementation of such a leadership style by Maximus as a collaborative relationship. Even knowing that his fellow gladiators already recognize him as a winner, as a leader at the battlefield, he always involved them in a collaborative relationship. Taking care not only about his own life, but trying to help others survive (as in the case with the team battle in the Coliseum where Maximus applied one of the war techniques to crash the ** and enemies who rode them. Maximus was always open to helping and collaborating with other gladiators though he still remained very isolated due to his personal grief, the murder of his wife and son (MacDonald, 2000).

The second technique Maximus uses is treating everyone with respect and dignity. As a war general, Maximus knew very well what human dignity was, so he carried these concepts through the time of his glory and through the time of his despair, slavery and tortures. Even the master who bought him and made him go to the battlefield was treated with respect, though it was clear that Maximus was able to arrange resistance and get free from his power. Maximus nevertheless understood that he had to win and deserve his freedom, so he fought again and again with respect to people surrounding him. He respected the murdered Marcus Aurelis and always treated his daughter Lucilla with appropriate dignity, even at times when they remained alone he kept to his principles and never afforded relaxing or crossing the boundaries of hierarchy (MacDonald, 2000).

Finally, the third technique that Maximus wanted to observe but still failed was the principle of sharing and co-creation. Surely, there was no coercion from his side directed at his followers – all of them followed him according to their wish and free will (which is the main distinguishing trait between a leader and a boss). But still he remained a recognized general who governed the actions of his followers, so he was the main personality in the activities described in the film. Co-creation and sharing was not typical for that type of relations, military-governed, so this technique failed even in the period when Maximus was a slave – he was respected and all his instructions were fulfilled as if he still were a general (MacDonald, 2000).

It is hard to say what could have been done in a different way in such a situation, as I am describing the film that tells about ancient times when the hierarchical structure was completely different from what it is now. I guess I would arrange the resistance to Commodus in a different way – the nation should find out what Emperor they have and what crimes he committed. So, using the popularity of a leader I would choose to inform the public and to let them make their choice as to whether to follow the right leader or to subdue to the murderer. However, this approach might have proven unsuccessful because the public rebellion would lead to many deaths among common people, leaving not very many chances for its success. For this reason it is hard to find any other pitfalls in the strategy chosen by Maximus (MacDonald, 2000).

Looking at leadership according to the “textbook” provisions and trying to design an ideal leadership technique is a certain way to the failure because leader is like a business strategy – it will be successful only in case it represents something brand-new, something non-formalized, but including inspiration, good will and thrill. Maximus managed to inspire people and to lead them to death, which they did willingly, because they knew they fought for the right things. Choosing the right ideology and strategy is the key to successful leadership – people follow the one who hears them, who considers their needs and recognizes their sufferings, fighting for their rights. This concept and feeling of unity cannot be filled into the academic boundaries, this is why each successful leader can share the secret of his or her success, but followers are not likely to succeed if they follow those guidelines exactly.

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MacDonald, L. (Producer), Scott, R. (Director). (2000). Gladiator. United States: Dreamworks & Universal Pictures.

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