Being the bold and daring type, he was vocal in his opinions but did not openly challenge the norm of he school system. He was probably influenced by Keating’s non-conformist approach demonstrated by the event such as the “lesson on conformity” where the students walked in the courtyard to find their own way of walking. Charlie chose to exercise his right not to walk which illustrated the point perfectly. Charlie brought two girls to the Dead Poets Society meeting and notified everyone that he had published an article on admitting girls to Welton on behalf of the club.
This confirmed the change in his attitude.
He was bringing his challenge of the school system to the forefront as articulated. This signified the change in him. Bennis & Thomas (2007) notes that leaders are transformed by their personal crucibles. In this movie, Keating’s crucibles would probably be the original the Dead Poets Society of which he was a member. It transformed him to a freethinking activist who was keen to share his experiences with his students.
The formation of the Dead Poets Society would also have shaped his non-conformist thinking. The following diagram elaborates the leadership development model.
It shows the model of transformation whereby leaders are shaped by their experiences in personal crucibles influenced by the era and individual factors. This leads to the development of leadership competencies. Keating’s sharing of his involvement in the Dead Poets Society indirectly encouraged his students to follow in his path and for them to have the same experience (crucible).
Assuming that The “Five Centuries of Verses” that was left in Neil’s room was from Keating, it shows that he deliberately wished for the boys to go through the same ritual as him.
For the students, their entire duration of interaction with Keating and his teachings could be perceived as their crucible, with outcomes being individually very different. As pointed out by Bennis & Thomas (2007), a “crucible is an almost infinitely elastic term that is ultimately defined by the person transformed by it. ” In the movie’s context, the outcome of this transformation has varying results. While many factors would have contributed to the result, one single key quality would be the adaptive capacity (Bennis & Thomas, 2007).
To this end, Neil Perry did not have this capacity and therefore resulting in a tragedy. It would be Interesting to postulate the possible events that could have transpired AFTER the movie ends. As Keating’s adaptive capacity would determine his future success, his experience at Welton as the English teacher could also be a crucible for him. LEADERSHIP CAPABILITY? Did the organisation/characters possess leadership capability? Why/Why not? As was discussed earlier, leadership involves the 4 capabilities of Sensemaking, Relating, Visioning and Inventing.
In that respect, throughout the movie, John Keating has on many occasions shown himself to possess leadership capabilities. Since Keating had been a student, he had first-hand experience of the teaching style of Welton Academy. The teaching style had not changed eversince he left as graduate. Students were still taught not to question outside the curriculum set by the Academy. Students were not inspired, not encouraged and not challenged to explore outside the curriculum. It was shown in the beginning of the movie that students set up study groups before they attend class.
It is an example that the same curriculum had been taught before. Welton Academy wanted to ensure that its students could enter prestigious Ivy League universities. It was shown in the scene when the headmaster told the parents and students that 75% of the graduates went to such universities. Though students questioned the teaching styles, they never brought it up to teachers or parents. They just accepted it unwillingly. As Keating had been through the similar environment, he sensed that change was needed.
As mentioned earlier, the adaptive challenge faced by John Keating was the challenge to change the mindsets of the students. In the scene where Keating introduced himself to the class, he clarified the fact that he was once a student. But he used the word ” Helton” instead of “Welton”. During the scene that he decribed the poerty appreciation method by Dr J Evans Pritchard as excrement, he told the students that poetry evoked the feelings which lead to appreciation. All these scenes are evidence that he understood the feelings that students had in studying poetry.
He taught poetry by letting the students express their opinions. There is the scene where John Keating stood on the table and reminded students to constantly look at things in different ways. He had also asked them to write poetry and read it out loud in class. Keating also pinpointed Todd Anderson that he understood that such assignments actually scared him. This showed that Keating understood his feelings and challenged him to open up. Neil Perry came to consult John Keating with regards to the play that his father, Mr Perry had objected to his participation.
John Keating advised him to relate his feelings to his father and not pretend to be a dutiful son. If there were still disagreements, Neil would still be able to do whatever he wanted when he finished the study path set by his father. John Keating told Neil that he could still pursue his dreams without defying his father. John Keating’s vision was to inspire his students to be free thinkers. He constantly reminded his students that their feelings of the poetry can always be different from the poet. A free thinker refers to thoughts that are not restricted and confined by the overall opinions of intellectuals.
John Keating told his students to rip out the introduction of the poetry as appreciation was not to be ‘measured’. He brought his students out to the field and told them that he thought of sport as a challenge that pushed people to excel. He also stood on the table to remind his students that they must constantly look at things differently. Though the change of his students could be better managed in order to prevent tragedy, Keating had clearly demonstrated the leadership capabilities. ARGYRIS & SCHON Relate the material above to the concepts of Argyris and Schon (single and double loop learning, theories in use and espoused action)
The concepts of Argyris ad Schon for espoused action, theories in use, single loop learning and double loop learning are per stated below:- Argyris (1985, 81-82) explains that Espoused action “are those that an individual claims to follow. ” Argyris (1985, 82) explains that Theories in use :are those that can be inferred from action. ” Single Loop Learning pertains to “the consequences of an action strategy are as the agent intends, then there is a match between intention and outcome, and the theory in use of the agent is confirmed.
If the consequences are unintended, and especially if they are counterproductive, there is a mismatch or an error. The first response to error is typically to search for another action strategy that will satisfy the same governing variables. ” (Argyris 1985, 85 – 86). In short for the single loop learning, if the intended consequences are not achieve, the action strategy will keep changing and not the governing variables. Double Loop Learning “change the governing variables. ” (Argyris 1985, 86)
When the intended consequences are not achieved, the changes should be made from the governing variables and not the action strategy. The action strategy and intended consequences will also change due to the change in the governing variables. Therefore it is Double Loop Learning. John Keating’s intended consequence is that his students become free thinkers. Therefore the Governing Variable is to change the mindsets of the students from submissive thinkers into free thinkers. The action strategy that he took was to let the students express their own opinions of the poems and also compose poems.
Since John Keating just wanted to change the mindsets of the students, he would just have to change the action strategy if the intended consequences are not achieved. Since the governing variables were not changed to achieve the intended consequences, it is evidently a single learning loop. In the beginning of the movie, the students recited the four pillars of Welton Academy which were ” Tradition, Honor, Excellence and Discipline”. When the students were in their comfort zone, they recited the four pillars as ” Travesty, Horror, Decadence and Excrement”.
This demonstrated that the students would say different words at different environment and also proved the espoused action. When Neil Perry’s father found out that his son had a role in the play ” The Midsummer Night’s Dream”, he wanted his son to quit the night before the performance. Neil Perry gave a verbal promise that he would quit. But in fact, he did not. This demonstrated theories in use. The difference between Single Loop Learning and Double Loop Learning is that former change the action strategies and the latter change the governing variables if the intended consequences are not achieved.
If Keating had not achieved to change the mindsets of the students into free thinkers, he might change the governing variable from changing the mindsets of the students to changing the mindsets of the teachers. Then the intended consequences would be that the teachers would be open to the opinions from students. In the movie, Keating wants to change the mindsets of the students only and not the Academy’s management, teachers and student’s parents. Since the intended consequences are to have free thinking students, he would just change the action strategy.
The movie did not show any change in the governing variables set by him. It is just a Single Loop Learning. INFERENCES What inferences did you see? What was the impact of these inferences? Taking into account the cultural context during that period and assessing the overall sentiments and reactions of key stakeholders (school administration and parents), it can be inferred that leaders must be ultimately responsible for the consequences of their actions, because of the strong influence they wield over impressionable minds.
While there is no doubt that he demonstrated many excellent teacher qualities (perhaps ahead of his time), John Keating’s charismatic and affable ‘leader/idol’ personality to his students indeed perpetuates the romanticised image of ‘teacher as saviour’. This created “unrealistic and potentially harmful expectations by encouraging teacher fantasy at the expense of reality’ (Mitchell & Weber 1999). On hindsight, his lessons were indeed inspirational; however his style of change management could be seen as inadvertently leading to them acting recklessly, making rash decisions and ultimately leading to a tragic death.
It must be noted that while Keating did try to make the distinction between unfettered self-expression and self-destructive behaviour, unfortunately the events were already set in motion and would eventually lead to tragedy. It becomes clear that at least some of the boys were really not emotionally equipped to incorporate into their own lives the kind of freedom and non-conformism that Keating was teaching. LESSONS What lessons for leadership are evident from your analysis? John Keating, the leader, demonstrated the capabilities of distributed leadership.
In an adaptive situation, he challenges the norm and the way of thinking. Having had the experiences that resonate with his students, he allows them to challenge these norms and search for their own voice. Clearly, he could make sense of the environment and communicate to his students. His sharing of his vision displayed his leadership capability. He made a deep impression on his students, especially the few who are featured in the movies. These are the qualities of leadership which should be emulated.
On the other hand, his superficial understanding of Neil’s relationship with his father exposed him for the lack of thoughtful consideration of the possible consequences which eventually lead to tragedy. Similarly, Charlie’s open challenge of the system was not within Keating’s expectation. He did not appreciate his deep influence on them and communicate effectively the difference between ideology and current reality. This would show that leaders while wielding power of influence and change must appreciate the impact in advocating this change and its consequence.