The Movie Lord of the Flies

The movie I chose for my analysis was the Lord of the Flies adapted from the novel written by William Golding with the same name. A group of military school boys become stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere after a plane crashes into the ocean. With only one adult surviving the crash, who is immediately useless with sickness, the boys have to fend for themselves and take responsibility in order to survive. Ralph, one of the boys, who they refer to as the colonel, takes charge after the group elects him as their “chief”.

Ralph immediately seizes action by assigning different individuals to create a fire and shelter. The inhabitants begin by working together by Ralph’s suggestion. However, as time goes on many of the boys, including an outspoken one named Jack begin to “screw around”.

Ralph suggests to the group that stricter rules will need to be enforced and demerits will be handed out if these rules aren’t followed.

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Jack and his buddies poke fun at Ralph’s thoughts by saying “eat shit and die”. Ralph continues to encourage the group that help will arrive after Jack has repeatedly stated otherwise. A rancorous rivalry begins between Ralph and Jack, as Jack bonds with the other hunters he comes power hungry. The “hunters” become primitive under Jack’s ruling, seeking violence and play instead of survival as a group. Ralph attempts to keep his troop’s grounded and civilized however with Jack’s rambunctious spirit, other boys are attracted to his leadership style.

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The rivalry escalates when the rebelicious “hunters” neglect their responsibility to tend the fire and they miss the only rescue option, a helicopter flying near-by. Ralph becomes furious with the lack of concern and teamwork shown by Jack, which severs the group ties completely. The antagonism between the two cliques eventually turns into violence and bloodshed.

Ralph becomes a party of one after all his followers were either murdered or joined the “hunters”. Jack orders his troops to hunt down Ralph so they can torture and ultimately eliminate him off the island by death. On the run for his life, Ralph stumbles across a man dressed in camo on the beach. Without coming across this man Ralph surely would have been caught. The “hunters” are in shock as they watch the helicopter land on the sand beside them, while Ralph cries with relief curled beneath the mans feet.

Although Ralph and Jack were both active leaders within Lord of The Flies, I will be focusing on Jack throughout the entirety of this essay due to his intense leadership style. While following Jack his troops were able to accomplish killing a wild boar and other small reptiles for food, and creating weapons for protection/hunting. Jacks troops were ultimately able to survive due to their “fight” instincts and savageness throughout the island.

The study and interest in leadership can be dated back to the early twentieth century. There are many definitions of leadership and many people interpret the term differently. One definition of leadership that I believe is fitting for this essay is leadership is the process in which one person can rely on and organize a group of people in order to accomplish a certain task. The earliest theories concentrated on the attributes that seperated leaders and followers while subsequent theories focused on skill level and situational circumstances. When looking at leadership theories it can easily be separated into three different classifications: the individual, the group, and the process of leadership. The first theory that I believe falls into Jack’s leadership style is the transactional leadership approach.

“Transactional leadership emphasizes the regular interactions between leaders and their followers, and how reward and exchange systems impact leader effectiveness” (cite note). A transactional leader typically values order and structure and motivates followers by reward or punishment. Due to this type of leadership followers are usually fearful of the punishment and follow what is expected of them. Transactional leadership focuses on the individual success and performance while in a structured environment. Transactional leadership is often looked at as a “telling” leadership style rather than “selling”. This theory is based off the idea of an exchange; both parties receive something they want or that is benefiting if the task is accomplished. Transactional leaders can be described as highly reactive, due to the reward punishment style. These types of leaders also typically thrive off rules, being in charge, and tend to be inflexible.

An example of Jack’s transactional leadership is when Jack didn’t follow through with his responsibilities by letting the fire go out. Due to Jack’s own self interest for hunting, a nearby helicopter didn’t see the signal and ultimately the group wasn’t rescued when they could have been. Transactional leaders often put their own needs first before thinking of the entirety of the group. After this occurred Ralph, the main leader, became furious with Jack’s lack of concern for being rescued. Jack enraged at Ralph said something to him along the lines of “We were hunting, and you to back off of my “gang” and if you know what’s good for you, you should stop trying to run everything”. This is a threat by Jack which correlates with the punishment side of transactional leadership. If Ralph continues to try to be chief, Ralph will pay the consequences. Not only were harsh words exchanged, but a physical altercation broke out between Ralph and Jack. This conversation and altercation was not private between Ralph and Jack, many of the other boys were around when this occurred. This let both groups know (Ralph’s and Jack’s), that Jack wasn’t messing around. Ralph suggests that the group works together instead of being divided in two, however Jack has his own agenda and creates a new group for hunters and “guys who wanna have fun” says “fuck you” and leaves. This is Jack again having the mindset of a transactional leader, someone who doesn’t have the whole groups best interest but rather favors himself as the leader.

Another example of Jack being a transactional leader is when he offers Ralph and the rest of his troops meat, in exchange for their obedience to his orders and commands. Ralph and Piggy ignore Jack’s exchange and continue to reason why the group should go back to one unit under Ralph’s initial ruling. Jack disregards Ralph and Piggy’s comments, takes back the food and the offer to join his group. This is an example of transactional leadership because Jack offers meat, a possession that Ralph and Piggy would benefit from (a reward), if Ralph gives up his title which is something Jack wants.

Jack shows the transactional leadership theory when Jack performs cruel punishment on one of his followers. It is uncertain what this boy did, perhaps he didn’t follow a command of Jack’s or questioned his leadership but, the boy was given numerous whippings to the back by some of Jack’s other followers. One can see Jack in the background with his arms crossed, smirking, enjoying torturing the young boy. This is transactional leadership theory because the boy disobeyed Jack, and therefore Jack responds with a penalty. This again shows Jack’s other followers what will happen if his rules are disobeyed.

The second leadership theory that I believe Jack falls under is the charismatic or transformational leadership theory. Now one might not understand how Jack can be a transformational/charismatic leader and a transactional leader, for they seem opposite. However, throughout the movie Jack displays moments of charisma and the transformational leadership theory. It is important to understand what the transformational leadership theory is before I discuss how Jack displays this theory in the movie. Transformational leaders seek change and motivate their follows into joining their belief and goal. These leaders are often charismatic and will help followers envision an attractive cause that motivates others. They tend to be good at changing others viewpoints and empower individuals to conquer the “impossible”.

Charismatic leaders can have a large powerful effect on society and their followers. With following through on promises, followers of these leaders are often highly devoted and loyal. Followers also tend to be enthusiastic towards their leaders cause, perform at high levels, and are willing to sacrifice to their own agenda for the sake of the groups end goal.

In comparison to Ralph, Jack is the better charismatic leader. Ralphs troops disseminated almost immediately with Jack’s devotion and loyalty. Jack’s followers throughout the entire movie are beyond willing to satisfy his demands. A time where his followers were willing to sacrifice their own agenda was when they were chosen to play the beast or the “pig” in a pretend hunt. Another example of his charismatic/transformational leadership approach is how Jack offers the boys the time of their lives throughout the movie. Jack is all about fun and games, which can’t be any more appealing to young prepubescent males.

Transformational leaders are action based and tend to make things happen. “Actions speak louder than words” and that’s exactly what Jack does. Throughout the beginning of the movie Jack promises to the boys that he will get meat, referring to killing the wild pig that is scurrying around the forest floor. Towards the end of the movie Jack follows through with his word and kills the pig. Jack prepares a feast for everyone, even inviting the arch-enemies Ralph and Piggy. This is an example of Jack’s transformational leadership, keeping his promise. This creates a stronger bond between Jack and his followers because it allows them to place their trust in Jack for he will fulfill their desires.

Although Jack meets the criteria of both transactional and transformational/charismatic leadership theories, there are other aspects leadership theories that Jack particularly struggles with or doesn’t meet. The managerial leadership model is a model that was developed to categorize five different leadership styles that a leader may possess. These styles are based on the concern for people or followers and production. The fives styles include the country-club, impoverished, middle-of-the-road, team, and produce or perish style.

Now looking at some of these styles Jack could potentially fall under a couple of them. However, at the end of the day Jack is looking out for his own best interest. Even though he may seem to care about his posse, when it comes down to it Jack is selfish, not selfless. A category that Jack doesn’t fall under in my opinion is the country club style. Jack’s main goal is production, fun, and survival, and cares less about the individuals around him, country club style is the opposite. Country club leaders are seen as accommodating and have a high concern for their followers. However, country club leaders have a low concern for production and what gets done. This is the complete opposite of Jack. Jack has little concern for his people and simply just cares if what he wants gets accomplished. The atmosphere is usually friendly in a country club environment although Jack’s surroundings are always very hostile.

Even though Jack isn’t the best leader by anyone’s standards due to his unsympathetic and vindictive personality he does meet some of the criteria for some leadership theories. In my opinion I believe Jack fit’s into the transactional and transformational/charismatic leadership theories. However, Jack does not meet the criteria to place himself in the country club style on the managerial leadership model.

Many individuals believe that without some sort of “power” over followers a leader can essentially not be a leader because nothing would be accomplished. In the following paragraphs I’m going to discuss the different types of power Jack had over his followers throughout the film and how his followers reacted towards this type of power. The six types of power that I will be discussing are legitimate, information, expert, reward, coercive, and referent power.

Legitimate power is considered a traditional power, typically managers, executives, or a high-up official in a company is given this power due to the rank of their position or status. At the beginning of the movie Jack wasn’t given much legitimate power because the

‘chief’ position was given to Ralph. Although, over time Jack became more of a figurehead and gained legitimate power. Towards the end Jack was seen as in charge of the entire island giving him plenty of this kind of power. However, when the army showed up in the final scene Jack’s legitimate power immediately dissipated. Jack’s followers worshiped him and gave in to anything Jack requested. Not many seemed to question Jack for when one did, they would suffer a severe punishment such as whipping. This power was used to achieve goals on the island such as accomplishing daily tasks and making Ralph and Piggy’s life on the island as miserable as possible.

Individuals who have more knowledge, experience, or insight manifest in expert power. Jack displays expert power in the sense of him having experience in bullying others or getting others to follow his demands. This experience came from his time at boarding/military school which was briefly mentioned during the movie. This is the only example of expert power that Jack exhibits. Otherwise Jack has no other advantages over the rest of the boys in terms of an expertise. Jack’s followers respond with fear and therefore obey his every wish.

Information power is when an individual or person has knowledge that others would like to obtain. This information can strategically influence the attitudes, values, and behavior of their followers bringing the leader an incredible advantage. Jack has little to no information power, it would be a stretch to say he has more knowledge over the monster on the island than the other boys.

The biggest power that I believe Jack exhibits is coercive power. Coercive power is when a leader has the ability to punish or threaten their followers. A leader’s threat can be persuasive enough to get the follower to obey an order or behave a certain way. Jack has an extreme amount of coercive power over his followers and even Ralph and Piggy. Jack makes numerous threats towards Ralph and other boys who do not follow him. Throughout the movie Jack actually physically assaults others or has his followers do the dirty work for him. Due to Jack’s high coercive power his followers tend to be submissive towards Jack’s requests and demands not knowing if he may lash out.

The complete opposite of coercive power is reward power which I believe Jack also has obtained throughout the film. Reward power is the ability to award followers with praise, money, or some wanted or desired item. Reward power can be considered a win-win, the leader gets what he wants out of the situation and the followers are given an incentive and if the task is completed, a reward. Jack exhibits reward power when he promises his followers with meat from the wild pig. The boys of the island are awfully hungry at this point for something other than lizard or bird and are eager to join Jack’s cult. Jack does eventually reward his followers with this meat he promised which creates a trustworthy and loyal atmosphere among his followers.

Referent power can be described as “who you know” and one’s connections and personal relationships with others. Jack has no referent power at the beginning of the movie because most of the boys vote for Ralph as their leader. However, Jack does make ‘friends’ with many of the boys on the island however I wouldn’t describe this as referent power.

Jack displays many types of power throughout the movie even if it is in small increments. Eventually all but Piggy and Ralph fall into Jack’s cult and obey his demands and respect him out of fear (conceive power). Although Jack didn’t start out with much power to begin with, he quickly gained influence and dominance among the boys. Jack was able to use all these types of power to achieve goals with the helps of his followers. Although Jack’s power completely disappeared at the closing scenes, he had almost complete control for a large portion of the film.

There is much to be learned from watching Lord of the Flies and watching the different types of leadership that is displayed throughout the movie as the boys of the island attempt to govern themselves. Many would agree that Jack is not the typical leader and that type of leadership will eventually crash and burn. Jack is extremely power hungry and is only concerned for himself on the island. With the use of coercive power and his charismatic charm Jack is able to gain a large following. He is able to persuade his followers with fun and survival, which no prepubescent boy can deny. Jack also uses different types of leadership theories to accomplish his goals and demands such as the transactional leadership theory and the transformational/charismatic leadership theory. Although Jack wasn’t the best leader by most individuals standards, he was able to achieve his goals through his leadership skills.

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The Movie Lord of the Flies. (2021, Oct 15). Retrieved from

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