Monday, March 4, 2013

WAR MOVIE LEADERSHIP: Master and Commander

1. How would you describe Aubrey's leadership style?

            Aubrey is a crew’s captain.  He empathizes with his men and understands them.  He recognizes their superstitions like the whole “Jonah” thing.  He also believes in discipline and punishes one of the men who disrespected an officer.  It was obvious he understood what motivated the sailor, but rules are rules.  He refuses to reduce the grog ration to prevent future incidents because he understands how important that treat is for the men.  He is idolized by the men partly because he is successful (which means more prize money for them) and he is considered to be lucky.  He clearly does not ask them to do anything he would not do himself.
            Aubrey also maintains a good relationship with his officers.  He drinks with them in a good fellowship way and listens to them, although his decisions are final.  The way he deals with Hollom is instructive.  He tries to be sensitive, but is firm.  Although he sees the crew’s viewpoint, he tries to buck up Hollom and help him reach his potential.  He trusts his subordinates and gives them opportunities to lead.

2. Is Aubrey motivated more by pride or duty?

            I have to say it’s mainly pride, he even admits he has gone beyond his orders.  At one point he says after the enemy had gotten behind him a second time that he would not let it happen again.  Lucky for him his leadership style has created a surplus of good will that he taps into.  Great commander soften show this motivation, including his idol Nelson.  I have to add that along with hubris, he also has great faith in his abilities. 

3. Contrast the philosophies of Aubrey and Maturin? Who is right?

            Although Aubrey treats his men fairly and is not the type of martinet that was common in the Royal Navy back then, he certainly fits the British model of a captain being all-powerful on his ship.  Once he makes up his mind, he can be stubborn.  He also believes the end justifies the means.  For example, he cheats to win the final battle.  He knows you don’t get in trouble if you win.  Aubrey is the prototype man of war, Maturin is the man of science.
            Maturin, being a doctor and a liberal intellectual, is more concerned with the well-being of the crew than with the success of the ship.  He is a democrat on a ship which is a dictatorship.    He understands this, but still can’t help but voice his “radical” opinions.  He barely conceals his distaste for the traditions of the Navy.  He strongly believes that scientific discovery trumps a single ship victory.
            Both men are flexible in their philosophies which allows them to be friends.  Maturin abandons his quest for “the white whale” in order to save his friends life.  Maturin, obviously a pacifist, joins in the boarding and even kills a Frenchman.  It is a fascinating relationship.
            I personally think Maturin is right. Not only is the defeating of a single French privateer unlikely to have any significance in the war, but for a 28 gun ship to challenge a 44 is reckless. If Aubrey had failed (and he should have - he had to cheat to win), it would not only have been disastrous to his crew, but also to his career. Was Magellan (who travelled around the world, but lost the majority of his men) more important than Darwin (who stopped in the Galapagos Islands)?
MARCH WATCHALONG:  Twelve O'Clock High
1.  Was Maj. Gen. Pritchard right to relieve Davenport?
2.  Describe Savage's leadership philosophy and style.
3.  Was Savage right in the way he handled the unit?

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