After studying the course material, there are several questions about Twelve O’ Clock High that I would answer differently: When did General Savage change his leadership style? Why was Savage able to turn the group around? What is the significance of Savage taking the group to the target when everyone else turned back?
Upon arriving at the 918th Bomb Group’s post, Savage realized the lack of discipline and poor performance typical of the unit. For example, after reviewing personnel files, Savage came across Gately – an individual with a strong file. When he realized that Gately was not at his post and was out drinking, Savage relieved him of his Air Exec duties, reassigned him to the position of bomber commander, and assigned all the misfits to his command (“Leper Colony”).
It was at this point of the movie that Savage exhibited a transformational leadership style. He ...view middle of the document...
By offering a transfer to anyone who wanted one, Savage was betting he could commit the men to his vision – a high-performing, proud unit, capable of conducting precision daylight bombing. A clear vision and sense of mission are critical to a charismatic leader's success.
Dr. Bass’ research identified several key elements within the charisma dimension, including the creation of vision, a sense of mission, infectious pride and followers' trust and respect. The 918th Bomb Group became an elite squadron because Savage focused on long-term goals, inspired followers to share his vision, enacted change, and empowered his followers. Moreover, Savage tailored his leadership style for each situation. For example, in his conversation with Bishop, he used words like “we” and “us” to encourage group cohesion and ultimately get Bishop to withdraw his application for transfer.
Savage again demonstrated a charismatic leader's unconventional and radical nature by taking the group to the target when everyone else turned back. He essentially risked his reputation and command by disregarding Pritchard's order to return. However, by ignoring Pritchard's order, Savage was actually performing the duty that he was given by the higher ranking officer – turning the 918th Bomb Group into an efficient and effective wartime machine. Savage was unyielding in his mission to rebuild the unit's morale and confidence. Indicative of transformational leaders, he continuously strived to energize his followers, gain their commitment, in-still them with a sense of mission, imbue them with pride and gain their trust.
By generating pride in the unit, Savage believed he could develop esprit de corps. He instinctively knew that when the group began destroying targets while reducing its own losses, a sense of pride would permeate the entire unit. This sense of pride not only ran parallel to Savage's vision of the 918th being a high-performance unit, but also was key in allowing the unit to complete even the most dangerous missions in Savage’s absence.