Braveheart Like 12 0′ Clock High and Lawrence of Arabia, the characters in Braveheart are engaged in a desperate military campaign against superior forces. In such a situation, the quality of leadership may make a difference between success and failure. As a charismatic leader who draws disparate groups together in support of a cause, the character of William Wallace possesses many similarities to T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia and also to Commander Davenport in 12 0′ Clock High.
The presence of a charismatic leader brings many advantages to an organization, ncluding a passionate base of supporters, but also some disadvantages, as demonstrated by all three films. Charismatic leaders like Wallace and Lawrence may inspire loyalty and attract recruits through the force of their personalities. Both characters make their initial impressions and win the loyalty of the men they eventually lead through acts of bravery, in Lawrence’s case, or prowess in combat, in Wallace’s.
While this kind of attention can inspire considerable passion from followers, who can then achieve results that would otherwise seem impossible, such qualifiers for leadership do not lways indicate a capacity for actual strategic thinking or resource management, which can lead to the downfall of the organization. Commander Davenport in 12 0′ Clock High was also a charismatic leader who was well-liked by his men. However, his affection was earned through camaraderie, not leadership skills, which resulted in the 918th group suffering high casualty rates and mission failures.
Gardner points out that an effective leader can be measured by the extent to which he or she maintains a focus on group objectives. In the case of charismatic eaders like Wallace and Lawrence, the group objective and personal objectives often align. For the character of William Wallace, his personal mission for revenge evolves into the larger goal of Scottish liberation, while Lawrence’s goal of Arab liberation comes from personal sympathies for the marginalized Arab tribes.
However, the weakness of leadership inspired solely by charisma can come from the same source as its strength, meaning that the leader’s personal qualities do not necessarily extend to the act of total leadership. For Lawrence, for example, whose personal ego and mbition eventually cloud his perception of the groups fighting under him, the focus on Arab liberation slowly shifts to a focus on self-aggrandizement. While he does win the battle for Damascus and achieves his overall objectives, his inability to objectively evaluate the situation dooms the larger goal of Arab liberation to failure.
William Wallace, on the other hand, does not suffer from the same style of weakness. Like Lawrence, however, the appeal based on his personal reputation is very strong among the rank-and-file soldiers, but weaker among those in power with personal stakes of their own. Lawrence’s men habitually leave the battle when they have accumulated enough money to make the expedition worthwhile because their William Wallace over-estimates his own authority at the battle of Falkirk, where he is betrayed by Lochlan and Mornay, for whom money and power are more important than Scottish independence.
Atticus from the film To Kill a Mockingbird makes a similar error, assuming that his personal conviction will be enough to overcome the racist tendencies of the Jury. By contrast, General Savage achieves results leading the 918th partially because he is willing to be personally unpopular and instill unit iscipline, uniting the group around common goals rather than his personality. Another error made by charismatic leaders in these films is the unwillingness to fully trust their managers and leader-managers.
Lawrence continually refuses to acknowledge the advice of al-Sharif throughout the film, even though in several instances Sharifs insight would have maintained the cohesion of the Arab fighting units and prevented Lawrence from being arrested and tortured. William Wallace is also often hesitant to delegate responsibility and listen to the counsel of others, specially the more temperate voice of Robert the Bruce. While Robert’s naivet?© is mostly responsible for Wallace’s capture, his input regarding dealing with the Scottish nobility could have helped avoid the betrayal and losses in the first place.
By contrast, General Savage consistently requests the counsel of the officers and managers working under him. While he does not always respond his officers’ advice, he is often willing to put aside his own prominence in order to be a more effective leader. Charismatic leaders often find themselves as the recipients of fierce loyalty from heir subordinates. However, this loyalty does not always extend to the goals of the organization at large, resting instead on the leadership fgure himself.
When this situation arises, the personality flaws of the individual leader become weaknesses for the entire organization, which may also lack the cohesion to follow through on its goals in the leader’s absence. William Wallace, Atticus, and T. E. Lawrence all personally failed at their objectives, while the 819th achieved at their objective precisely because the loyalty of the fghting men was to the organization, not the fgure of the leader.