Leadership Theories Essay


Leadership Theory Through Comparison of The King's Speech and Schindler's List

Leadership Theories Essay Example: Introduction

Did you know there are a lot of different leadership theories? Every leader has different qualities and adopts a different leadership style. There are seven major leadership theories. Some well-known movies make a great example of them. For example, The King's Speech by Tom Hooper, where a stuttering king makes his way to be an appropriate king, displays a remarkable instance of servant leadership. There is another movie that will be valuable for us, Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg. In the film, Oskar Schindler owns a factory and uses it to save people from Nazis. We can say that it's the perfect example of a transformational leader. To explain the relevant leadership theory, this paper summarizes the two movies, informing the reader about leadership theory and personal reflection of myself regarding these leadership styles. It is clear that the needs of a leader change over time. There are different types of leaders, and some of them might not always be applicable. One should adopt a particular leadership style that fits the needs of the situation.

The King's Speech and Leadership

The King's Speech by Tom Hooper tells the story of King George VI, where he is the soon-to-be King of the United Kingdom and have some problems with his leadership, mainly because of his stuttering. When he gives his first speech, the audience gets uncomfortable with how he speaks, as he is continually stammering. After a while, the Duchess suggests him to see Lionel Logue, who is a speech therapist. But Logue wants full equality with the King during the sessions. He calls the King "Bertie" throughout the movie. In the first session, Bertie seems reluctant; he says that his situation is "hopeless". After a while, Bertie agrees to get treatment, but he forgets all he learned every time the session ends. For this reason, Logue wants to be involved with Bertie's personal life as he thinks his speech disorders may be related to childhood trauma.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is about to go into a war, and Bertie's brother, who is the current King, decides to give up the royal family to marry someone. That's where Bertie realizes he must give speeches as he will be the King. However, Bertie can't be convinced that Logue is capable of treating him. Logue promises to help him on his way, as he constantly stands by Bertie and does what's necessary to correct his speech. After a long time with heated training sessions, Bertie finally corrects the way he speaks. At the end of the movie, Bertie successfully gives a speech to command his country through the war. In the final address, Bertie and Logue execute the speech at the same cabin, and after the speech, everybody seems influenced and impressed by the King's Speech.

Servant Leadership Theory

This movie shows a great example of servant leadership theory. Robert K. Greenleaf first introduced servant leadership theory in 1970. It fundamentally clarifies that the initial motivation is to serve others (Smith, 2005). The theory explains that a leader shouldn't be hungry for power but hungry for helping people. Despite other leadership theories, servant leadership theory doesn't encourage motivating others through a top to down hierarchy; it is centred around collaboration, empathy and trust (Burkus, 2010). Sendjaya et al. (2008) suggest that servant leadership includes voluntary subordination, which means that a servant leader will help and serve others when there is a need no matter the situation, unlike self-centred leaders. Therefore, this theory is not appropriate to chase one's dreams and ambitions.

Greenleaf (1996, p. 8) states that "The work exists for the person as much as the person exists for the work.” Servant leaders employ a holistic approach, meaning their perspective consists of people, organization, and society as a whole (Smith, 2005). Servant leaders also agree to be humble, to work silently and overlooked without being admired (Badarocco, 2002). It can be said that they are not precisely "leaders" in terms of their social status, but they get results the way they serve others, and that quality makes them leaders.

Another indicator of servant leader is how they treat others. Unlike some other leadership theories, servant leadership theory suggests leaders should have a covenantal relationship with others. Unlike other leaders, servant leaders don't create a space between themselves and others using their power or influence. Other people can be in touch with a servant leader, be creative without fear, and adopt total equality between others (Sendjaya et al., 2008). To sum up, servant leaders get their results by employing equality, service and modesty-based solutions. Their main goal is to serve others to get better results for everybody. They don't pursue personal desires; they help their society to pursue a collective dream.

Servant Leadership and The King's Speech

Taking the explanation mentioned above as to our criteria, we can say that Lionel Logue presents a servant leader's qualities. First of all, he develops Bertie to be a successful wartime King. He served his country by helping other people; he improved an individual to get holistic results. He was devoted to his service to make Bertie a great King. Bertie was proved to be inconsistent and sometimes uncooperative, but this didn't deter Logue from helping him. Another aspect of Logue that shows us he is a servant leader is that he was the leader of Bertie, so that he was the exact reason Bertie got to rule his country. However, he never wanted more appreciation; he was backstage the whole time. And when Bertie gave his last speech in the movie, which was thanks to Logue, nobody knew he was there except his family. All the credit went to Bertie, while Logue was satisfied that he served other people as a servant leader. He did get famous afterwards, but it wasn't his ambition. He did his part as a servant leader by helping and leading someone when most needed.

Schindler's List and Leadership

Schindler's List of Steven Spielberg takes place in Nazi Germany. After Poland's occupation by Nazi German, businessman Schindler sees the opportunity to start a business by opening up a factory, where he would employ Jewish workers in slave-like conditions. He was well-liked by SS officers, which enabled him to easily employ the Jewish workers without any disturbance from the regime. He was making a significant amount of money from his unpaid workers' back. There were no laws against this practice, and Schindler kept on doing so. Our antagonist Kommandant Amon Goeth comes to the town as the new officer responsible from Krakow. He started to send unemployed Jewish people to Auschwitz, where they were usually being killed. This exercise also affected Schindler, as his workers disappear suddenly. He then rushes to the government and wants his workers back to make more money with slave-like workers. He bribes officers to get them back to the factory, and he does.

After seeing that Goeth is cruel against Jewish, his focus changes from making money to saving Jewish people. From time to time, he gets disturbed by SS officers, but he manages to keep his workers by using money to convince them. He adds children, lawyers, and women to his "list"; he can save them from the cruel regime by doing so. He even lets his workers perform their Jewish traditions weekly. But all these efforts severely harm Schindler's business. At the end of the war, he was left with no money and wanted as a criminal, while he was a wealthy businessman at the start. However, he was able to save more than one thousand Jewish lives.

Transformational Leadership Theory

This theory started to be discussed in writing, especially after the 80s. As its name suggests, transformational leadership theory, in a broad sense, includes a leader adaptation to situations or change over time. Transformational leaders usually show characteristics such as being strategic and courageous, awareness of people's needs, and being value-driven (Hay, 2006). Also, according to Burkus (2019, para. 2), they display four elements: "individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation (charismatic leadership), and idealized influence."

Transformational leadership also include broadening the interests of followers (Hay, 2006). These types of leaders elevate others', especially their followers' standards, taking into account the community as a whole. This leader's approach also enhances their followers' performance and motivation (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Transformational leadership theory is the first theory that concerns values and morals (Burkus, 2019). At its core, transformational leaders empower their followers through their charisma and value-oriented attitude. They work with their followers to adapt to situations. One of the most important signs of a transformational leader is affecting society or a group of followers to change positively.

Bass & Riggio (2006) states that transformational leaders display personal thoughtfulness by showing concern for their followers' safety and health. They are sincerely concerned about their followers rather than centring their concern on profit or ambition. They are moral leaders who realize that they are responsible for their followers. They act accordingly to their follower's needs. To sum up, transformational leadership theory refers to the concept of value-driven, moral and changeable leaders. They also cause positive changes in their followers or society. They take into account followers' needs; they adapt to certain conditions for their followers' sake.

Transformational Leadership and Schindler's List

We can see that Oskar Schindler displays the characteristics of a transformational leader. At first, he was a financial gain-centred leader of his workers, making them work for no money like slaves. He was making money without caring for his workers. He was pursuing his desires solely. However, as the war continues and Nazi treatment of Jewish people gets more severe, Schindler realizes that he could use his power as a leader to help his followers. He then transforms into a value-centred, moral leader who, unlike before, spends his fortune to secure his followers.

He also demonstrates courage and charisma to keep his followers alive. He bribes officers and stands up to the cruel regime for his workers. He doesn't back up as disturbances from the state strengthens. He shows transformational leader quality as he was concerned about his workers' lives. Schindler improves his workers' standard also by letting them perform religious rituals. By listing women, children and unrelated Jewish people as workers, he manages to create a safe house. He is the perfect definition of a transformational leader.

Personal Reflection

In my opinion, servant leadership is not applicable in today's society. If you don't set your image as a leader, I don't believe that you can influence people. It's the most valuable leadership style from a moral perspective, but I don't see it in my leadership practice. Its core function is helping others, leading them to better. However, in the modern world, leaders have to have a charismatic, prevalent and well-known image, unlike a servant leader.

Conversely, I believe transformational leadership affects today's leadership practices. It's the ultimate way of leading, in my opinion, as it includes values, empathy, courage and so forth. In my leadership practices, I can see it playing a dominant role as transformational leadership would show me how to act in certain situations to be flexible but durable as a leader.

Leadership Theories Essay: Conclusion

After all, many leader theories have been studied to learn more about. Leadership styles and approaches differ more than people think. We can see those theories' influence on movies too; for example, The King's Speech displays an example of a servant leader very well, also Schindler's List, where we see a transformational leader that still influences leadership practices. To explain it further, this paper breaks down the servant leadership theory and transformational leadership theory by describing both movies. Lastly, it includes a personal reflection where the writer discusses how to implement those theories in today's leadership practices. We can deduce certain things about leadership. It is evident a leader's needs shift over time. There are various kinds of representatives, and some of them may not be appropriate in all situations. One should follow a leadership style that is appropriate for the circumstances.


Badaracco, J. (2002). Leading quietly: an unorthodox guide to doing the right thing. Harvard Business School Press.

Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Burkus, D. (2010, April 1). Servant Leadership Theory. David Burkus - Author of the Myths of Creativity.

Burkus, D. (2019, July 4). Transformational Leadership Theory - David Burkus.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). On becoming a servant-leader. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Hay, I. (2006). Transformational Leadership: Characteristics and Criticisms. E-Journal of Organizational Learning and Leadership, 5(2).

Sendjaya, S., Sarros, J. C., & Santora, J. C. (2008). Defining and Measuring Servant Leadership Behaviour in Organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 45(2), 402–424. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6486.2007.00761.x

Smith, C. (2005). Servant leadership: the leadership theory of Robert K. Greenleaf.

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