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Transformational Leadership and Apollo 13

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Greg Santarelli

on 24 November 2014

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Transcript of Transformational Leadership and Apollo 13

Apollo 13 - Synopsis
Apollo 13 – Cast of Main Characters
Kevin Bacon plays backup Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert.
Apollo 13 - Trailer
“Apollo 13- Original Theatrical Trailer”. YouTube. The Channel, 15 Nov. 2014. Web. 28 May 2007.
The main characters in the film Apollo 13, Gene Kranz and Jim Lovell, demonstrate transformational leadership qualities throughout the movie. This analysis will use the transformational leadership framework (4 Is) as outlined in Antonakis (2011) and Avolio (2011) to apply fundamental transformational components to these two characters in the movie.
Apollo 13
Movie Analysis
Sandy Gunter &
Greg Santarelli

The movie Apollo 13 is about the 13th mission in NASA’s Apollo program. The focus of this program was to explore the Earth’s moon. The Apollo 13 mission was plagued with many misfortunes.

Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) is an astronaut who gets word that due to an ear infection, one of the original Apollo 13 astronauts cannot go into space. This allows for Jim and his crew to be bumped up to take over this mission. Jim embraces the opportunity to become commander of Apollo 13. He and his crew begin to prepare for the mission.

Unfortunately, as fate would have it, the flight surgeon reveals that Ken Mattingly (played by Gary Sinise) was exposed to the measles. Due to the fact that he could become ill in space, Jim is given the choice of allowing Ken to be replaced with his alternate, Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), or Jim’s crew could be bumped to a later mission. Although a difficult choice, Jim chooses to replace Ken.

Everything is going smoothly in space until one night when the crew is completing some housekeeping items on the ship. About halfway through the procedures Jim Swigert is asked to stir the oxygen tanks. Immediately when he does this, a loud bang is heard, and the ship begins to shake and rattle, lights begin to flash on the control panel, and the oxygen tanks begin to fail.

As oxygen levels continue to fall, carbon dioxide levels rise, and energy levels need to be saved, mission control headed by Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris) is tasked with a way to return these astronauts to safety back on Earth only using the materials, oxygen, and energy at the astronauts fingertips all the while knowing that the astronauts face probable death once the ship re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Synopsis for apollo 13. (2014, November 18). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112384/synopsis
What is Transformational
“Transformational leadership occurs when one or more persons
engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (Sorenson & Goethals, 2004, p.870).

Transformational leaders encompass four main factors:
Idealized Influence, Charisma
Inspirational Motivation
Intellectual Stimulation
Individualized Consideration

Transformational Leadership Factors
Factor 1: Idealized Influence, Charisma

- strong role model
- “special”
- articulated to orient and guide followers moral and ethical
- followers trust and identify with leader

Factor 2: Inspirational Motivation

- motivates followers to share vision and to participate in vision

Factor 3: Intellectual Stimulation

- encourage followers to be creative, innovative
- followers supported in problem solving

Factor 4: Individualized Consideration

- help followers advance via participative leadership
individual needs considered

Factor 1: Idealized Influence,
A leader who demonstrates idealized influence often acts as a role model for constituents to emulate. Constituents are able to identify with the leader and the mission. In times of difficult situations, the leader is counted on for making the right decisions (Avolio, 2011). Day and Antonakis state that, “Charismatic leaders communicate symbolically, use imagery, and are persuasive in communicating a vision that promises a better future. In this way, they create an intense emotional attachment with followers” (2011, p. 265).

Gene Kranz can be seen demonstrating idealized influence and charisma in difficult situations. As many people at mission control assumed that the astronauts were doomed, Gene kept an optimistic outlook on the situation. He had to make many difficult decisions, but when he did he spoke with confidence and had a deep trust in his employees. In this clip, one can see that even with negativity around, Gene communicated his opinion using persuasion, imagery, and body language that was admirable for the situation (Avolio, 2011).
In this clip Ken Mattingly is told by Jim Lovell that he cannot go on the Apollo 13 mission because he has been exposed to the measles. It wasn’t an easy decision for Jim to follow through with especially since they had become very familiar and comfortable with each other’s moves after spending the last few months training together in the simulator. Jim demonstrates idealized influence by doing what is morally and ethically correct; making the difficult yet right decision. Even Ken’s response, “must have been a tough one” referring to Jim’s decision, demonstrates how much respect and trust he has in Jim (Avolio, 2011).
Factor 2: Inspirational Motivation
Antonakis (2012) states that, “leadership that inspires and motivates followers to reach ambitious goals that may have previously seemed unreachable” is called inspirational motivation. These leaders are confident that an outcome will occur (Avolio, 2011). The goal of Apollo 13 was to land on the moon and once that no longer became achievable it was imperative that the leaders continued to motivate the constituents in order to get the astronauts back to earth safely. This required the leaders to go beyond anticipated expectations and to formulate a new goal. According to Johns and Moser (2001) a transformational leader is able get their constituents to accept a change in vision.
Although mission control was unable to succeed in assisting the astronauts in landing on the moon, they needed to devise a way to return the crew home safely. In Apollo 13, Gene Kranz demonstrates inspirational motivation as he is charged with the task to motivate his constituents to formulate a plan to get the crew back to Earth safely. To many employees, it seemed to be a near impossible feat. Gene was challenged to inspire mission control employees with optimism and confidence that there was a solution even if it had yet to be worked out.
It is evident throughout the mission that Jim Lovell inspires and motivates the rest of the crew. He does this by staying calm, being optimistic and encouraging them. This inspiration is evident not only by what he says but also by what he does (Avolio, 2011).
For example, when they find out they are losing carbon dioxide Jim tells them to “Just breathe normal, fellas” (Broyles & Reinert). When Fred Haise and Jack Swigert are arguing Jim replies, “All right, we're not doing this, Gentlemen. We're not gonna do this. We're not gonna go bouncing off the walls for ten minutes. 'Cause we're just gonna end up right back here with the same problems. Try to figure out how to stay alive!” (Broyles & Reinert). In these examples Jim shows confidence and resolve that things will turn out okay and his constituents are inspired to reach a level of performance beyond normal expectations (Antonakis, 2011). It’s the confidence that the crew have in Jim that allows for him to remove his bio-med sensors without them questioning it, which inspires the crew members to do the same. This action enhances the morale and empowers the constituents.
Factor 3: Intellectual Stimulation
According to Avolio (2011), a leader who demonstrates intellectual stimulation motivates their constituents to be innovative and creative in finding solutions. A leader does this through, “questioning assumptions” and allowing constituents to solve problems on their own while encouraging them to try new approaches. Johns and Moser posit that this, “...is the kind of leadership needed to manage uncertainty” (2001, p. 121).
Gene Kranz demonstrates intellectual stimulation as he challenges his constituents to think creatively to find solutions to immediate problems. In the movie, Apollo 13, mission control is given the challenge to develop a solution to the rising carbon dioxide levels in the space shuttle. Gene delegates one of his employees to use a box of resources with supplies that could be found on the space shuttle to create a makeshift filter to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide. Here, Gene challenges his team of specialists to use their understanding of the resources to creatively solve the problem (Avolio, 2011).
Jim Lovell demonstrates throughout the movie that he believes in his constituents by trusting them to use their knowledge and skills to make decisions. Coming to terms with not being able to follow through with the plan to land on the moon was difficult for the crew and Jim encouraged his crew to be creative in their problem solving,
Gentlemen, what are your intentions?... I'd like to go home. We got a burn coming up.
We're gonna need a contingency if we lose communication with Houston. Freddo, let's...let's get an
idea where we stand on the consumables. Jack, get into the Odyssey and bag up all the water
you can before it freezes in there... Let's go home (Broyles & Reinert).
As we watch the crew persevere through difficult times we see Jim focus, “on the what the problem is rather than on the who, where blame might be assessed” (Avolio, 2011, p.17).
Factor 4: Individualized Consideration
In individualized consideration, the leader considers the individual needs of each constituent by providing individualized attention through mentoring and coaching. By providing this support to the constituents, the leader is developing them to reach their highest potential while empowering them and encouraging ongoing communication (Antonakis, 2011; Avolio, 2011).
Gene demonstrates individualized consideration in Apollo 13 as he allows Ken Mattingly to work the simulator in order to devise a procedure for a re-entry plan. At the beginning of the film, Ken was bumped from his position to fly in the Apollo 13 mission because the doctors said he had been exposed to the measles. Individualized consideration is used in this example as Gene empowers Ken to take the lead on this extremely important task. This allows Ken to reach his highest potential when he successfully guides the crew by communicating with them the procedures required to return home safely.
Jack Swigert was put in a tough position being a last minute addition and not having a lot of experience with the team heading on the Apollo 13 mission. Throughout the movie Jim Lovell demonstrates individualized consideration for Jack. Avolio posits that transformational leaders pay, “...special attention to each individual’s needs for achievement and growth by acting as a coach, mentor …” (2011, p. 18). Jack’s initial failure in the simulator made it difficult for the team to have confidence in his ability to pilot the mission. But Jim defended Jack when he said, “if I had a dollar for every time they killed me in this thing, I wouldn’t have to work for you” (Broyles & Reinert). Jim provides Jack, “...with a supportive climate for learning to occur” (Avolio, 2011, p.18) regardless of the obstacles that he may have to overcome.
In Conclusion...
The movie Apollo 13 told the story of a crisis that could have easily ended tragically. It required transformational leaders to articulate a clear vision that would allow the constituents to take on leadership roles based on their experiences, needs, values, morals and strengths. Through innovation and creative problem solving they were able to collaboratively work towards their new vision of getting the astronauts home safely. This was successfully achieved as the leaders used idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration to lead constituents through this catastrophe.
Antonakis, J. (2012). Transformational and charismatic leadership. In D. V. Day & J. Antonakis (Eds.), The nature of leadership (pp. 256-288). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Inc.

“Apollo 13 / Leadership, Conviction”. YouTube. Debraj Ghosh, 15 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Apr 2008.

“Apollo 13 (7/11) MOVIE CLIP - Square Peg in a Round Hole (1995) HD”. YouTube. MOVIECLIPS, 15 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 Jun 2011.

“Apollo 13- Original Theatrical Trailer”. YouTube. The Channel, 15 Nov. 2014. Web. 28 May 2007.

“Apollo 13 - The Accusation”. Youtube. Matthew Bayless, 22 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Avolio, B. J. (2011). Full range leadership. In Full range leadership development. (2nd ed., pp. 49-75). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Inc. doi:http://dx.doi.org.uproxy.library.dc-uoit/10.4135/9781483349107.n6

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Synopsis for apollo 13. (2014, November 18). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112384/synopsis
Bill Paxton
Fred Haise
the Lunar
Module Pilot.
Tom Hanks
plays Jim Lovell
the commander
of Apollo 13.
Gary Sinise
Ken Mattingly
prime Command
Module Pilot.
Ed Harris plays Gene Kranz the NASA flight director at Houston Mission Control.
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