September 22, 2011 MGMT 299-01
Dissecting transformational leadership in Norma Rae
The ﬁlm Norma Rae is a realistic portrayal of the sad, immoral, and oppressive working conditions that existed in the imminent life of mass production workers during the 1970’s. The ﬁlm follows the progression of Norma Rae, an ordinary woman destined to be a complacent factory worker for generations to come into that of a transformational leader who brought about changes beneﬁtting more than just a few. From a morose beginning, the movie traverses an extensive journey and leaves the audience with an inspiring encouragement to revolutionize one’s hostile environment into one of collective conquest. In the movie, this revolutionary muse is passed down from protagonist to protagonist, and ﬁnally, engrained into the viewer’s mentality, demonstrating the way transformational leadership enriches the lives of others by stimulating action within them.
Norma Rae a Labor Analysis This film is based on the real life story of Crystal Lee Sutton and her involvement with Ruben Warshovsky and the organization of the textile workers at the J. P. Stevens Company in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina (Labor Films). Sally Field plays the lead role of Norma Rae (Crystal Lee Sutton) fighting poor working conditions at O. P. Henley Company in 1978. This company ...
Implicitly, the audience is set to view Norma Rae as a promiscuous, loud-mouthed, confrontational female. Norma Rae is a mother of two at the beginning of the ﬁlm. One of her children is from a previous marriage and the other is from an extramarital affair on her behalf. As the movie begins she is in a relationship with a married man. The director chooses to set this negative persona of Norma Rae in the beginning to demonstrate how unlikely of a leader she seems to be. This image is then juxtaposed with the personal growth Norma Rae exhibits in her journey and how the audience views her at the end of the ﬁlm. Norma Rae does not depict the existence of a great leader or someone who has a big following. In fact, Norma does not have any followers as seen from a conventional view. Yet, she succeeds and beneﬁts many; depicting a radical and subtle style of leadership, all in one, highlighting “leadership is not about personality; it’s about behavior” (Kouzes and Posner, 36).
Like every working class mother of her time, Norma Rae lives for her children. She works long excruciating hours at the textile mill for minimum pay to provide for them. She lives a frugal life living at home with her parents. Since her mother and father work along her side in the mill, Norma’s family is a driving force behind her determination and persistence in her unionizing efforts. She witnesses what the harsh conditions of working at the textile mill for years can do, through the experience of her mother, who looses her hearing temporarily with no sentiment from the company doctor. Management’s apathy towards working conditions also play a major role. Norma Rae funnels her rage into continued unionizing efforts after her mother gets sick and her father dies working in the plant. One of the major personal development growth points seen in Norma Rae is her ability to channel her rage and anger into a ﬂame of ignition to motivate her continued efforts. She does not want her children in the future to witness any suffering caused by her work. She wants the opportunity to grow with them, to see the generation after them, but she knows it will not be possible if she continues to work under the stringent long hours with short breaks, physical stress from standing for long periods and abnormally high temperatures in her main work areas.
It is easy to see why the film, Norma Rae, received great praise at the time of its making. Sally Field gives a heartwrenching performance, providing a realistic portrayal of the shockingly oppressive working climate of the blue-collar worker. This is an older movie, thus sustaining the elements of the 'Hollywoodism' that are prominent now to a minimum. Nevertheless, the director successfully ...
After her family, Norma Rae’s reputation is a key source keeping her battery running. As she is already negatively perceived among her peers, she has something to prove to herself. She has a burning desire for something better. This is exempliﬁed when she decides to sit her children down and explicitly tell them “[she] believes in standing up for what [she] thinks is
Norma Rae aspires for something bigger and better than the usual stagnant and complacent mannerisms of her colleagues who are engrained in the hierarchical company red tape.
Lastly, Norma Rae’s relationship with Reuben is of the upmost importance when examining the purpose behind her engagement in the unionization of the factory workers. As The Leadership Challenge proclaims “leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow” (Kouzes and Posner, 45).
In this instance, Reuben empowers Norma Rae’s thinking, so much so, she starts to genuinely believe in correcting the wrongdoings of the factory management. This is the moment of inception. The instant she starts to believe in change is the moment in time when the leadership relationship commences. It’s important to note Reuben is the only male ﬁgure in the ﬁlm that does not want any sexual favors from Norma Rae. His only want is for her full participation in the union efforts. After she realizes his intentions are genuinely good, she has a moment of transcendence, understanding she will become an agent of social change with his help. With his polishing, she slowly transforms into a conﬁdent individual with her full potential, waging a war with conviction and full-throttled energy.
The unionizing efforts in the ﬁlm are successful because there is one goal and it out shadows every individual. That’s the important component of a transformational leader. S/he does not view themselves bigger than the cause. A transformational leader wants to enrich the life of his/her followers by distributing the idea of a collective goal. Reuben inspires Norma Rae and as a result Norma Rae empowers her peers with the same breath of passion for this ultimate goal. Reuben dismisses Norma Rae’s complacent hesitations when it is clear she will lose her job if she does not cease her unionizing efforts. Even though Norma Rae is his mentee, he puts personal feelings, fears, and convictions aside, emphasizing the bigger picture. The end goal should always outweigh personal bias. Norma Rae has added another child to her family by this time. Her factory paycheck is the only means of ﬁnancial security she and her children have. Nevertheless, she puts her paycheck in jeopardy after Reuben outlines the bigger stakes in their efforts. It’s not easy to risk ﬁnancial survival of one’s children for the betterment of everyone else but “authentic leaders stick to their commitments, sometimes at substantial risk to themselves” (George, Sims, McLean, and Meyer).
What can we say about leadership? Leadership is a concept, way of life, and aspect of continuous evolution. Trying to narrow down or pinpoint an exact definition to be applied to this term is non-existent. Rather you can only apply certain aspects of this term to better understand it. The area which I will go into is "how situational leadership coincides with empathy as far as generating a ...
This scene is an explicit representation of Norma Rae pursuing her commitment during turbulent times. She is a woman who has the courage to stick to her goal when faced with a dilemma of two responsibilities, her children and/ or the greater good of factory workers.
The factory management attempts to disrupt the unionizing efforts by pinning participating parties against one another. They played on the racial boundaries and social stratiﬁcation of the era by posting a letter suggesting the black factory workers were unionizing, and thus, would dictate the human resource operations of the factory. In other words, the black factory workers would gain the power to command the white workforce. This mischievous act by management was clearly an egregious human resource mistake. Because Norma Rae and Ruben are creative logical thinkers, they delineate a plan to make a copy of the letter to expose the malicious tactics senior management is engaging in. After being asked to leave the factory premise, Norma Rae refuses to leave the factory as she, in her emotional peak, realizes she needs to do something dramatic to instill the same ﬁre in her colleagues. It is then she jumps on a table, drafts a “UNION” cardboard sign, and places it over her head. Seeing one of their own begging for action and cooperation spoke to one of the female factory workers who was the ﬁrst to turn off her machine in protest. After Norma Rae’s rant in the middle of the factory room, the factory
comes to a complete halt as all the machines are turned off. A few days later the work force votes to unionize.
One of the main things that could be compared between factory workers and slaves is the different working conditions that the two had and how they all suffered. Even though the factory workers were inside a building they suffered a great deal. The early factory system did not share its benefits evenly with every one. The owners grew plump with all the profit that they made, while the workers ...
We must be cognizant that a contributing factor to the success of the unionized factory workers is the ﬂexibility Norma Rae exudes in different situations. She acts accordingly to whatever the situations calls. Norma Rae has no idea one event will lead to the next; yet, she trusts the ultimate goal, in and of itself, enough to trust her own spontaneity. In the fundamental state of leadership, the individual leader is a dynamic system adapting in real time to the dynamic systems around him/her. The leader is an agent of change that facilitates change. To do this, the leader has to trust their intuition and experiment. It takes guts to refuse to leave a place they are literally kicking you out of and essentially start a movement that changes the standard of living for many. Norma Rae’s actions revolutionized the manufacturing industry to exercise ethical labor agreements between corporations and the common blue collar worker. At the critical moment, Norma Rae simply stood in her truth. With clear purpose, full authenticity and a concern for the collective good, she stood and held up a sign. When Norma Rae engenders the camaraderie between her co-workers, it is then she becomes a transformational leader. She has enriched the lives of her colleagues by stimulating their actions to turn off their machines and join in the unionizing efforts. By staying true to her commitment, she illustrates the true deﬁnition of leadership, “a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others” (Kouzes and Posner, 18).
4 KEY TAKEAWAYS ON LEADERSHIP AND THE USE OF POWER 1. Strategic planning amidst adverse circumstances. a. At a critical moment, Norma Rae was at the edge of chaos and she took a bold action. The action re-framed the way all the workers thought and that changed their behavior. She transformed her organization. Did she assume that copying the letter would lead to being ordered out of the plant, that on her way out she could stop at her machine, be pulled away, and then jump on a table and hold up a sign? b. Be creative about planned action. Remain ﬂexible. Understand life is not predictable so trust intuitions and inhibitions. Recognize when to stick to a plan and know when to be spontaneous. 2. Leaders are created out of situational factors. b. Proper guidance and mentorship along with situational factors can ignite the ﬂame of leadership in an individual who has never demonstrated any leadership potential. Reuben guides Norma Rae to personal empowerment and personal development throughout the entirety of the ﬁlm. 3. In unity lies the greatest potent power. a. Norma Rae and Reuben cannot do it on their own. They have to inspire others to believe in their goal. The only way to inspire others to follow the goal, is to make them follow the person ﬁrst. That requires building trust. Trust maintains a relationship characterized by mutual respect and conﬁdence. Company management tries to tame Norma Rae by offering a raise and buying her out. At ﬁrst, she plays into their hands, but soon realizes having power within the group is far more valuable than just a position of power outside. 4. Leadership is not gender speciﬁc. a. Norma Rae proves it to all that women can work, earn, and take care of the house as well as lead. Traditionally women have not been perceived as leaders and were never allowed
The movie 'Norma Rae' was a realistic portrayal of the sad, immoral, and oppressive working conditions that existed in the imminent life of mass production workers, and one woman's struggle to overcome and improve the labor relation problems at a textile mill during the 1970's. Sally Field plays the leading role as Norma Rae fighting the poor working conditions at her job at O. P Henly. O. P ...
to lead. Norma Rae makes is that women who are not associated with leadership can be taught and developed to be good leaders.
K o u z e s , J a m e s , a n d B a r r y P o s n e r. T h e L e a d e r s h i p C h a l l e n g e . 4 t h edition . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007. R i t t , M a r t i n , D i r . N o r m a R a e . P e r f . F i e l d s , S a l l y . Tw e n t i e t h C e n t u r y Fox Film Corporation, 1979. Film. G e o r g e , Wi l l i a m , P e t e r S i m s , A n d r e w M c L e a n , a n d D i a n e M e y e r. ” D i s c o v e r i n g Yo u r A u t h e n t i c L e a d e r s h i p . ” H a r v a r d B u s i n e s s R e v i e w 0 1 0 2 2 0 0 7 . We b . 2 2 S e p 2 0 1 1 .