Video Flight of the Phoenix 2004 IT's Essay

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Flight of the Phoenix - Leadership


John Moore's 2004 motion picture Flight of the Phoenix relates to an account involving leadership styles and individuals who take on attitudes that make them more or less worthy of being considered leaders by the persons that they interact with. The fact that the plane's crew members are confused and unable to take attitude in critical conditions surrounding the plane's crash influences them in turning to the Captain as a result of his position and because of his authoritarian atittude. This actually set the path for later events involving Towns, as most of the group's members got accustomed to the idea that he had no problems imposing his point-of-view when the situation arose.

The largest part of the group appeared to consider that it was logical for them to relate to the pilot as their leader and it is only safe to claim that he was made a leader even before the group discussed in regard to this. Even with the fact that some of the individuals in the group were hesitant about naming him their leader, they all eventually start to express interest in having him as a leader. Kelly Johnson appears to be among the only ones who are reluctant to acknowledge his leadership.

Workplace structure acts like a major neutralizer in this situation, considering that Towns find it difficult to control the crew at times because they each encounter problems while trying to deal with the tasks that they are provided with. Towns himself is responsible for problems that the team as a whole experiences because he is hesitant about taking his leadership position seriously.


A task-focused leadership style would most probably be effective when considering the situation in "Flight of the Phoenix." Towns is in a strong management position and the rest of the group is inclined to support every decision he takes. The hostile conditions in the desert virtually make it impossible for Towns to express any interest in the well-being of his companions and in his relationship with them. Moreover, the fact that he is reluctant to be their leader demonstrates that he is focused on tasks rather than being concentrated on relationships.

Considering that Fiedler emphasized that there is no ideal leader, it would only be safe to assume that Towns managed to be the most qualified leader in the circumstances that he came across. He realized that it was pointless for him to try and strengthen his relations with the others and focused on doing the best that he could do. The situation in the camp is critical and it is essential for a task-oriented leader to come out and influence others to improve conditions in order for the group as a whole to experience as little problems as possible.

According to the Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership theory, the best thing for the group to do would be for each individual to acknowledge his or her role. Conditions are desperate at this point as Towns put across a Participating behavior while the group is able to work but is hesitant about doing so because they are suspicious about the whole situation.

Towns would have to get actively involved in trying to instruct his people regarding how it is important for them to act, as their actions would eventually reflect positively on themselves.


In contrast to Towns, Dorfmann has a plan that would actually make it possible for the team to survive. Towns is focused on having his people stand and wait for help in spite of the fact that it is very likely that help is never going to arrive. Even if Towns was aware that his plan would fail eventually, he was hesitant about providing Dorfmann with the power to lead the group because he feared to put his life into someone else's hands.

When considering the group's perspective, Dorfmann presents a more attractive plan because it is virtually their only chance to live and return home. In addition to providing a better plan, Dorfmann also made it possible for the group to come closer together. This demonstrates that he was a relationship-oriented leader, even with the fact that his ultimate goal was to build the plane. While someone might be inclined to consider that the group blindly followed Dorfmann at the time when he devised the plan, the truth is that these people actually considered their options and realized that this was one of the only solutions that they had.

According to the Hersey Blanchard model, the group had the ability to complete Dorfmann's plan but were hesitant about going through with it because it seemed utopian. The group fits into the M3 maturity level, considering that they were somewhat experienced in assisting Dorfmann as he wanted to build a new aircraft, but were not confident in their abilities. The fact that they experienced great suffering throughout their stay in the desert greatly contributed to making them feel confused about what they could and what they could not do.


Dorfmann's arrogant personality has had a negative effect on Towns' behavior in the camp, but the latter found it difficult to act in disagreement with the former's plan because he realized that this respective plan was the best that they could do at the moment. To a certain degree, one can consider that Towns never abandons his role and that he actually cooperates with Dorfmann because he knows that this man has the knowledge required for them to survive.

Towns realized the gravity of the situation and simply put his ambition behind in order to have both him and the group as a whole closer to their goal -- survival. He considered that he had to do everything in his power in order to successfully get out of the critical situation that they were in and openly admitted that he acknowledged Dorfmann as a leader. When considering the path-goal theory, it appears that Towns was perfectly familiar with the attitudes that a leader needs to take in particular situations. Towns is flexible as a leader and he immediately steps down when he realizes that Dorfmann's strategies might actually be more effective than his.

One can safely assume that Towns virtually remained the group's leader by getting everyone to appreciate Dorfmann. He and the group as a whole accepted that Dorfmann was the only person who could devise a plan that would work. By acknowledging Dorfmann's superiority he made it possible for the man to receive recognition from the rest of the group. Taking this into account, it appears that Towns actually tricked the whole group into thinking that Dorfmann was the new leader in order to get everyone to listen to the aircraft designer.


The moment when Towns confronts Dorfmann regarding his background as a model plane designer is essential when considering the former's role in the group. Towns makes it possible for the whole group to understand that he is still the one who holds power over them and that they are nonetheless dependent of Dorfmann because of his experience in designing planes.

The fact that the group was desperate at the time when it found out about Dorfmann's poor experience as a plane designer made it difficult and even impossible for them to stop working. They realized that they were especially effective when they worked together in order to achieve a goal and that they needed to cling on to whatever they had.

Towns' decision to confront Dorfmann enabled the group to realize that the former leader still held a lot of power and that he was determined to do everything that he could in order to make sure that the group would be safe. Towns is frustrated with the fact that Dorfmann is just a model plane designer and that he got the whole group to appreciate him even with the fact that he had limited information concerning the man's background. To a certain degree, Towns is aware that this information strengthens his position in the group, but concomitantly feels sorry as he realizes that their chances to survive dropped significantly because their engineer was just an amateur.


Conditions change significantly at the time when it is time to start the plane. The group acknowledges the important role that Dorfmann played in the overall story and the fact that he is largely responsible for the fact that they have a chance to survive. However, they also realize that everything now depends on Towns and that he takes on an impossible mission as he attempts to fly a plane built by amateurs from scrap. The simple fact that he has the courage to try and fly it demonstrates that he is willing to try everything in order to make amends for his previous mistakes.

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