In the film October Sky, the appearance of a Soviet satellite over the small miming town of inspires the inner desires of the residents of the town and has a deeper effect on the hopes of two boys, sons of a coal miner. The story begins with a teenage boy, Homer Hickam, who despite his inability to attain a scholarship to college, does not aspire to end up working in the mines like his father or all town people do. On the other hand, Homers father expects his son to take up after him by working in the mines like his dad. This expectation is further fuelled by the fact that, Homers brother, Jim enrolls in a college. Homer is engaged in trying to find out a means of getting out of the town and the life it represents for him. Homer gangs up with Quentin Wilson, Roy Lee and Sherman Odell who share the same dreams of getting a better life away from Coalwood. United, they are strengthened by sharing their strong points, support and dreams. Stirred by passion, they use the knowledge they have to engage in science projects which leads them to win the National Science Fair that represents an opportunity of enrolling in colleges.
At the beginning of the movie, Homer says, Im gonna build a rocket. Like Sputnik. However, his family laughs it off in their belief that it would be an unrealistic ambition to build a rocket for a chance to get into college by attaining a scholarship. Elsie, Homers wants more than the town can offer for her son. Homer on his own, attempts to build a mini rocket, which strikes him when it blasts off. Being a mining town whose residents care more about what can be found under the ground, there is no forthcoming support from the residents for Homers project. Eventually, the idea to team up with others is conceived. Quentin Wilson represents the typical nerd. He is interested in rocket engineering. Wilson turns out to be the instrumental partner that Homer needs to attain his dream. Roy on the other hand is cautious for the sake of their social lives. He believes talking to Wilson will kill their social life. However, Homer is undaunted by this sentiment from Roy and associates with Quentin with no hesitation.
Quentin turns out to be a useful ally. Not only does Quentin teach Homer a lot about rockets and associated knowledge, but he also teaches him the value of persistence. In the face of popular opinion about his scientific dreams, Quentin is undeterred in his ambitions. Quentin works towards his scientific dreams and is unfazed even if he has to huddle up in the corner of his small room. In return, Homer puts to use the skills that Quentin reads from books. If Homer had no practical ambitions, Quentins knowledge would have remained theoretical. Homer provides an opportunity for Quentin to apply his knowledge gained from study.
Homer is advised by Miss Riley to go back to pursuing his dreams and start by participating in the science fair. Homer proves the innocence of his team and goes back to school after dropping out to work in the mines following the injury his father sustained that rendered him unable to work. Homer goes to the science fair on his own since the school is unable to afford the trip for the whole crew. Homers model is stolen in the course of the science fair and he asks his father to allow one of his workers to develop him another one given the short notice. The model is made and delivered just in time. Homer and his friends win the local, and the national science fair. Subsequently, they manage to secure scholarships to go to college. They complete college successfully and pursue their ideal careers. Homer Hickam ends up working for NASA.
One effective leadership quality is being aware and responsive to the needs of the people one serves (Gardner & Laskin, 2011, p. 14). Miss Riley is aware of the needs of her students in the world they live in. she is aware of the traditional situation in the town and the factors that affect the students. However, she stands up to her conviction that it is only fair that students are allowed to pursue their dreams, in search of the sense of fulfillment in life. On the other hand, John is unaware of the possibility of a better life for his son beyond the mines. He does not take a moment to consider his sons point of view and advices him to abandon his dreams and join the mining bandwagon because according to him that is the inevitable way of life. The high school principal is similar to John. He is not aware that the students can pursue other ambitions aside from the mines successfully and does nothing to inspire them this way.
Another effective leadership quality demonstrated is the positive attitude from Miss Riley. She is positive in her advice and encourages Homer to go for it in spite of the setbacks that he faces. Miss Riley also stays positive in spite of suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma. On the other hand, Homers father and the principal harbor negative attitudes that only serve the purpose of discouraging their charges.
Effective leaders are inspirational (Gardner & Laskin, 2011, p. 15). Miss Riley serves as a source of inspiration for Homer and her encouragement enables Homer to work towards overcoming the hurdles to his dreams. After her advice, Homer sets out to prove the innocence of him and his friends. In addition, he goes back to study and gain knowledge necessary to set him on the path to building rockets. Homers high school principal does not inspire him in any way. Homers father serves as an inspiration despite the resistance to Homers career choice. His actions towards his workers and general determination serves as a hallmark for homers determination to do his best for himself and his friends.Leadership Theories
Homers father had a lot of self-confidence, determination and sociability (Northouse, 2015, p. 31). These traits are evident from his interactions with workers at the mine. His self-confidence and determination are evident when he risks his life to save miners and when he gets injured saving Ike during an accident.
Miss Riley has the ability to influence the behavior of others. When homer visits her, she encourages him to gather the courage to pursue his dreams. The trait approach defines the ability to influence the behavior of others as a characteristic of a leader.
Based on the skills approach, a leader should have three skills: technical, conceptual and human (Goetsch & Davis, 2014, p. 11). John shows technical skill with his actions during the accident at the mine that would have claimed the lives of some miners. Miss Riley demonstrates human skills with her ability to work with people and get them to achieve their goals. She gives Riley a book that gives him information on how to calculate trajectory of a rocket; information that enables Homer absolve his crew from blame on the forest fire. Miss Riley also advices Homer to pursue his dreams when he visits her. Homer demonstrates conceptual and technical skill when he decides to build a rocket on his own after watching the Russian satellite launch.
The film has individual demonstrating various leadership styles. Miss Riley is transformational (Nielsen & Munir, 2009, p. 314). She inspires change in Homer when she gives him a book that enables him set in motion events that would lead him back to pursue his dream based on her advice. John is charismatic. John is shot at in a drive through incident but he continues to stand firm in his view against the mining union. Elsie is a quite leader. She motivates her son without much ado about it. She obtains much needed assistance for Homer by threatening to leave John if he does not assist Homer get the rocket built at the mine workshop.
The contingency theory proposes that a leaders effectiveness is based on the situation (Noria & Khurana, 2013, p. 86). Elsie shows this value when she gets John to end the strike at the mines and get assistance for Homer who is stuck at fair with no working rocket to display. Miss Riley in giving Homer the book to calculate trajectories, shows contingency in taking care of the situation in the best manner possible. John makes the best decision in the situation in rescuing Ike and in the other accident where he rescues other miners.
In this style, the leader collaborates with their charges to identify the need for change (Williams, 2013, p.53). Elsie sees the need for change for her son away from the traditional mining destiny. She supports her son to achieve his dreams. Elsie gets John to call off the strike and get a worker to build alternative to replace the stolen rocket. Miss Riley sees the need for change in assisting her children to pursue their dreams. She encourages Homer by advising him to pursue his dreams and sending him in the right direction for him.
The emphasis of authentic leadership is on developing open and honest relationships with followers (Khan, 2010, p.167). Miss Riley is an example who establishes a sincere relationship with Homer. She is firm in her convictions and ready to assist to the best of her ability. John also has an open albeit one-sided relationship with Homer. John makes it clear the vision he has for Homer although he fails to consider Homers views. The principal does not display authentic leadership. He does not take into consideration the needs of his followers especially when he threatens Homer and crew to quit their rocketry or go to jail. Elsie is an authentic leader since she is aware of her sons ambitions and decides to do what is in her power to assist him.
Leadership and Culture
The main purpose of leadership is to establish a culture that would lead to consistent attainment of goals or fulfillment (Schein, 2010, p.31). John, the principal and most of the townspeople have a culture that they promotes that is different from what Homer and other likeminded children have. Majority opinion is geared at directing miners sons to follow their fathers example and work in the mines. Coalwood has a mining culture and their leaders expect followers to join in. however, homer rebels from the traditional culture and is inspired by the leadership of Miss Riley to break free from the mining oriented culture.
Ethical leadership is inspired by ethical values and beliefs that take into consideration the welfare of self and others (Rubin, Dierdorff & Brown, 2010, p.220). In the film, John takes into consideration the welfare of others to an extent of endangering himself. Twice, John risks his life saving other miners. John also gets shot due to his stand on the mining union. Elsie is concerned for the welfare of her son and does what is in her power to assist him.
October Sky is a film that demonstrates the impact of presence and absence of various leadership characteristics and their impact on others in society. Homer and his friends work against the odds to attain the goals they desire which in the begin seemed an unrealistic distance way. John to an extent inspires Homer despite ironically being against the idea of rocketry. Elsie and Miss Riley do the best they can to inspire Homer and friends to pursue their dreams. October Sky is a portrayal of different leadership styles and theories and their impact on individuals in society.
Gardner, H., & Laskin, E. (2011). Leading minds: An anatomy of leadership. Basic Books.Goetsch, D. L., & Davis, S. B. (2014). Quality management for organizational excellence.
Khan, S. N. (2010). Impact of authentic leaders on organization performance. International
Journal of Business and Management, 5(12), p167.Nielsen, K., & Munir, F. (2009). How do transformational leaders influence followers' affecti...
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