There are Situations and Then There are Situations

| February 2, 2016
Leadership / Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

As we’ve indicated, “situational” leadership usually results from a sudden occurrence, and shows us that everyone is potentially a leader at any given moment. Some situations call for seemingly ordinary actions, as in the case of Bill Masters, who might have simply addressed his neighbor’s grief with sensitivity and compassion. Other situations call for extraordinary actions. In the classic 1972 film, The Poseidon Adventure, Reverend Frank Scott (played by Gene Hackman) faces a much more challenging scenario. When the ocean liner Poseidon capsizes, Scott feels called to lead a band of survivors to safety.

The tv comedy Grandfathered makes the point that being unexpectedly thrown into a leadership role often changes one’s character. John Stamos plays Jimmy Martino, a self-possessed, womanizing restaurant owner who discovers that he has a son and a granddaughter from a relationship he was in 25 years prior.

Comedy often occurs when characters refuse or resist what philosopher Joseph Campbell describes as “The Call to Adventure” stage of the “Hero’s Journey,” and Jimmy is no exception: here, comedy issues from the tensions between Jimmy’s new role here, comedy issues from the tensions between Jimmy’s new role and his playboy identity. Jimmy is of course a comic anti-hero, whereas Poseidon’s Reverend Scott portrays the hero proper, a man called upon to accept an extraordinary challenge, a man even more radically transformed by the experience. Scott initially preaches a gospel of selfishness, stressing that, “God helps those who help themselves,” but when Scott realizes that he has an instrumental role to play in saving lives, his cynicism is transformed into altruism.

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