The Role of the Leader in Julia Alvarez’s Novel “In the Time of the Butterflies”

“The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground.” These insightful words by Winston Churchill explain that leaders who control people and watch their every move will not be respected by them. As described in the novel, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, was predominant, manipulative, and dishonest. His ruling tormented the people for decades. What people need are effective leaders.

Effective leaders must focus on a common goal shared and supported by the people. They also must trust and empower the people. Effective leaders are those who lead people toward a common goal.

This common goal is to build a better and brighter future. A great example is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. His goal was for the Indian people to “gain independence from Great Britain” in a peaceful way, which was clearly communicated to and supported by the people (History).

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Working together in the same direction, they gained freedom from the British in 1930. The reason for their success was because this common goal brought the Indian people together to create a better future for generations to come. Some people may argue leaders can also be effective in achieving a goal without a good cause such as starting a war or damaging the environment for profit. According to Alexis de Tocqueville, a French Historian, “liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” In other words, if the goal does not have morals and reasoning behind it, people will withdraw their support once they find out the truth.

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And those leaders are eventually voted off or abolished by the people.

Throughout the history, effective leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, all shared common goals with their people that brought positive impacts to their lives and made their community, society, and the world a better place to live in. In addition, ineffective leaders set goals that only benefit themselves and put their personal goals above all. In In the Time of the Butterflies, Trujillo's goal was to make sure that his power was unshakable and to get whatever he wanted. For example, he used propaganda to manipulate the public view such as publishing news article 'Grateful Madre 'Thanks Her Benefactor' to praise himself, while killing countless lives to secure his power (Alvarez 226). He had no moral standards and used his power to the advantage of women as well.

Women were chosen “all over the island, set up in big, fancy houses” for his pleasure (Alvarez 23). Comparing to an effective leader like Gandhi who put people’s benefit above himself, an ineffective leader like Trujillo often uses his power to manipulate and force people to follow his orders and get what he desires. Under Trujillo’s ineffective leadership, people had no freedom and were suffering from his cruel treatment for over thirty years. However, sooner or later, people figured out his real goal and despised him as a leader. An effective leader, such as Minerva took a stand against Trujillo’s actions. Minerva is one of the Mirabal sisters who started a revolution to overturn Trujillo’s regime. By setting a goal to free people from Trujillo’s control, she and her sisters sacrificed their own lives and inspired many people to carry on the mission. As a result, Trujillo’s regime was ended and people were freed from his suppression.

Effective leaders trust and empower people because they understand that people are the real force to make change happen. Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple Inc., once said, 'It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” An effective leader like Steve Jobs trusts and gives people the freedom which brings out the best in them. This leads to more creativity and higher productivity. When everyone in the group performs at his or her best ability, the performance of the group reaches the optimal. That explains why Apple remains one of the most successful companies in the world. Effective leaders are open-minded and listen to his people’s ideas and suggestions including disagreements.

Their decisions are made based on people’s input not just what they decide which can be biased and wrong. By contrast, ineffective leaders take power and freedom away from people, and instead inject fear into them. Under Trujillo’s rule, “people who opened their big mouths didn’t live very long” (Alvarez 18). He did not like people who opposed him and never took their ideas into consideration because he wanted things his way. It was a dangerous environment where people’s thoughts and actions were monitored by Trujillo’s spies. Similarly, in George Orwell’s novel 1984, the ruling party Ingsoc used posters that read “Big Brother Is Watching You” to create fear and control over its people. Fear causes anxiety and makes people focus on basic survival so that they are easy to manipulate and control. It is a common tactic used by ineffective leaders. In conclusion, leaders play important roles in shaping and changing people’s lives. Effective leaders are needed to improve the quality of people’s lives and make the world a better place. They are the ones who share a vision and a common goal with the people for the right purpose. They are the ones who trust and empower people to bring out the best in them. People must recognize the traits of ineffective leaders and take a stand for what is right, as exemplified by Minerva and her sisters.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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The Role of the Leader in Julia Alvarez’s Novel “In the Time of the Butterflies”. (2022, Apr 09). Retrieved from

The Role of the Leader in Julia Alvarez’s Novel “In the Time of the Butterflies” essay
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