Leadership is a wide notion

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Leadership is a wide notion quite hard to define in exact details, but briefly, it can be considered as “the art of influencing others in the manner desired by the leader” (Emily Spencer in Leadership Models and Theories: A Brief Overview). As this statement intimates, the leader is the key to an efficient leadership. However different styles of leaders and then of leaderships exist and we wanted to find out if one is more efficient than another. Dead Poets Society (DPS) is one of the most obvious and recognized cinematic example of leadership, that's why we decided to focus on this movie. We thus chose to study three main characters, Mr. Keating, Neil and Mr. Perry because we consider them as representative of certain leadership styles. Analyzing how they interact with others, motivate them, influence them, guide them and above all how they make them follow their lead and opinion, we deduced what leadership style is the most effective and fulfilling both for the leader and the follower.


The film is about the story of students at the respected "Welton Academy," a preparatory school in the United States. Such schools were (and often still are) very conservative institutions that serve as high schools for parents who insist on sending their children to the best universities. Welton, like many prep schools, admitted only boys. The movie takes place in 1959.

The movie begins with the start of term speech given by the Head of Welton Academy Gale Nolan, who states the academy's four pillars: Tradition, Honour, Discipline, and Excellence

The boys will meet during this school year a strange English teacher, Mr. Keating, who will encourage his students to always refuse conformity and think by themselves. Mr. Keating classes will change their lives forever. However, Mr. Keating lessons are a bit different from Welton standards and sometimes even totally unorthodox. For the one that the boys can call "O Captain! My Captain!", instead of the traditional “Sir” or “Mister”, each and every occasions are good to teach differently and develop the students open-mindedness. He explains them the deep meaning of Carpe Diem (Latin for “Seize the day”), shows them the importance of freedom of expression and non-conformity, reminds them to always look the world in different ways and perspectives and shows them how to find inspiration inside of them. From that point on, the boys set out on a journey of awakening, discovering that authority can and must always act as a guide, but the only place where they can find out their true identity is within themselves.

To put Mr. Keating way of thinking into practice, seven students secretly revive an old literary club of which Keating had been a member, called the Dead Poets Society. The club, dedicated to taking the meaning out of life, allows the boys to meet in a cave to read classical poetry or share their own compositions. Some of them also experience Mr. Keating lessons by themselves. Todd realises his truly creative potential, Knox finds the courage to conquer the girl of his dreams, Charlie rebels himself against Welton's archaic traditions even until a point of no return, and Neil lets his action passion free play.

Main characters

John Keating: John Keating is the new English teacher in Welton, but also a former student of the institution. Since the beginning of the movie he becomes the boy's source of inspiration and encouragement. He urges the students to understand and apply the Latin motto “Carpe Diem”. He teaches the boys poetry in a very unconventional, participative and interactive way to open their minds and make them think by themselves. He is a former member of the “Dead Poet Society” and gives Neil and his friends some clues to revive it. His ideas of freedom and anti-conformity are totally in opposition with Welton's four pillars: "Tradition, Honour, Discipline, Excellence". He will be laid off at the end of the movie, being blamed for Neil Perry's suicide. Nevertheless his students pay him a last tribute at the end of the movie.

Neil Perry: Neil is a confident and popular student who excels in his studies. Inspired by his passionate English teacher, Mr. Keating, he becomes the initiator of the revival of the “Dead Poets Society”. He greatly plays Puck, the main role in the winter play “A Midsummer Night's Dream”, against his father will who wants him to become a doctor. When the latter discovers it and threats his son to enrol him in a military school, Neil kills himself with his father's gun.

Todd Anderson: Todd is a shy and introverted student. It is the only one among the boys being new to Welton Academy. However, his name is well known in the institution because his elder brother was a brilliant student, which brings a lot of pressure to Todd, especially from his parents. Through the movie, Todd will move from a secret and unconfident boy to a quite well adjusted person.

Knox Overstreet: Not very self-confident at the beginning of the movie, Knox will eventually get the nerve to realize his dream and try to seduce Chris, the girl of his dream.

Charlie Dalton: Charlie is the rebel of Welton, the most extraverted and funny of all the boys. At the end of the movie he changes his name for “Nuwanda” to emphasize his rebellion. He admires and respects Mr. Keating, but takes his principles to the letter and does some foolish things.

Richard Cameron: Cameron is an assiduous, ambitious and very work-oriented student who conforms totally to Welton expectations. He always tries to win his teachers favours, even if it has to affect his friends.

Steven Meeks: Meeks often helps the others in different school subjects. He is very liked by everybody, studious and compliant. He supports Mr. Keating and becomes a dedicated member. Even if he has to accuse his teacher just as the others, he is part of the “standing students” at the end.

Gerard Pitts: Pitts is not a very present character but is part of the core group and above all of the Dead Poets Society. He seems to be social, liked by the others, especially Meeks with whom he works on a radio. Though he is introverted and doesn't take risks, he stands on his desk at the end of the movie, demonstrating his respect for Mr. Keating.

Mr. Perry: Mr. Perry is Neil's paternalistic, dominating and authoritarian father. He wants his son to become a doctor and really don't mind about his own projects. Every time he appears on the movie he argues with Neil and prevents him to do extracurricular activities (school newspaper, play…). When he realizes Neil disobeyed him, he decides to send him to a military school which lead his son to commit suicide. After tha,t he will ally with the Headmaster of Welton to accuse Mr. Keating of his son's death.

Gale Nolan: Headmaster Welton is very attached to the four pillar "Tradition, Honour, Discipline, Excellence" and enforces it no matter what, even using physical violence when he punishes Charlie Dalton. He shares his elitist vision since his start of term speech and doesn't approve Mr. Keating way of teaching. He will be a major actor of his eviction and will then replace him as the new English teacher. However, at the end, his authority is defied as the students stay on their desk despite his orders.

Chris Noel: Chris is a very little character in the movie. But it is important to mention her, because she is part of Knox emancipation. Indeed that's for her that he finds the courage to overpass himself. She is Chet Danburry's girlfriend, but she will lastly let Knox a chance after he pursued her during the most part of the movie.

I. Analysis of the poets

1. Importance of the context

The movie takes place in 1959 in a 100 years-old American private preparatory school called Welton Academy.

The 50's in the USA is said to be a social conservative period, an ideology that means that the society should encourage traditional values that are believed to keep people civilized and decent.

As a reflection of this period, this establishment is very strict and conservative and bases its teaching methods on four values that are Excellence, Honor, Discipline and Tradition.¹

This context will strongly influence the main characters. Indeed, the preparatory school is so strict that it lets very few liberties to its students. For instance their outing are very controlled as they must be escorted and schedule an hour to go back to school, they even can't listen to the radio, even if it is the golden age of the Rock and Roll music.

Extracurricular activities are allowed but often sacrificed due to the amount of work given to the students. Teachers are putting a lot of pressure on the students who are threatened to be severely reprimanded in case of failure. So, when Neil discovers that Mister Keating belonged to a secret society, he and his group of friends are strongly appealed by it. Indeed, discovering a secret and a prohibited society is exciting for these boys who have always been too wise and obedient. Nevertheless, the fear of being discovered and punished by the school makes several boys hesitating in joining the society. But finally, the desire to escape the school, break the rules and feel alive boosts them to take that risk. As Mister Keating told them they have to make their lives extraordinary and “Carpe Diem” is their new motto.

¹ Article about Social conservative http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_conservative


Furthermore, concerning Neil, his private context will enhance the effects of the common context on his behavior. Indeed, his father is very harsh with him, he decides what Neil should or should not do, he lets him no liberties at all. This kind of behavior must come from the time, indeed after the Second World War, the USA experimented an economic prosperity period, a consumer society. Neil's father wanted the best for his son; he wanted him to become a doctor, to achieve a upper-class status, whereas Neil just wanted to be an artist. By controlling his life like this, his father frustrated Neil that is why when he discovers the Dead Poet Society, he is immediately appealed by it, he wants to reorganize it and lead it, just to cock a snook at conventions and feel alive by taking “risks”.

Lastly, the boys are at an age (16-17 years old) in which you tend to rebel against your parents and the society and you usually like taking risks.

2. The poets

Todd Anderson

Todd Anderson is a new student in the prestigious preparatory school of Welton. His brother went to the same school and was a brilliant student. As soon as he enters the school he is reminded to be “the brother of Jeffrey Anderson”. He may have lived in the shadow of his brother all his life.

Some elements show us the personality of Todd. He is very shy and doesn't dare speaking. Todd admires Neil in a certain way because he speaks and expresses himself more easily than he does: “I'm not like you. When you talk people listen to you.” He has difficulties to speak in front of people. In general, he takes time before saying what is deep inside him. The pressure that pushes him to talk should be unbearable before he speaks.

He becomes more and more self confident through the film mainly thanks to Mr. Keating and Neil, his roommate. During one of the exercise given by Mr. Keating (stand on a table and see things in a different way), Todd is the last one who did it, that demonstrate that he is not extravagant and doesn't take initiatives.

Moreover, he has difficulties to consider that it's possible not to respect the rules and the parents' authority. In fact, when Neil thinks about playing theater, Todd tell him that's impossible and that he should tell his father the truth.

Todd discovers that in every shy kid, there is a poet trying to escape. Immediately after Mr. Keating's first course, he is thinking and seems to be elsewhere. Then, he writes down the sentence “Seize the day” on a sheet of paper but then threw it. At the beginning, he is not self-confident at all. For example, he re-writes a lot of times his poem and stores a lot of them. Mr. Keating got the point when he says that Todd considers that everything he does is “worthless and embarrassing” and he fears having to read aloud in front of the class.

During Mr. Keating course, the one for which they had to claim in front of all the class a poem of their own, Todd thanks to Mr. Keating becomes conscious of what he has inside of himself. He declaimed a poem of his own without having prepared anything. Everyone claps his hands. Even Mr. Keating is being impressed.

At the end of the film, he dares expressing himself and says that they have been forced to sign and then he stands upon the desk and yells “Oh captain, my captain”. As a proof of his new self confidence, he is the first student to stand on his desk in support of Mr. Keating at the end of the movie. Even if he is still shy, he dares standing in the way of Mr. Nolan, something he wouldn't have even thought about before. The different situational environment has an impact on that, his best friend in the school Neil is dead and Mr. Keating for whom he has respect is being wrongly accused.

Mr. Keating should be proud at the end: Todd a very shy person became more self-confident thanks to him.

Stephen Meeks

He is an intelligent student and helps his friends for the different courses and especially in Latin which seems to be his strongest point. He does not have a strong personality. In fact, he is not very sure of himself. However, he is an active member of the Dead Poet Society (DPS). Since the beginning, he agrees with the idea of going to the cave, he says that “he'll do everything once”. He is polite and is the first one to introduce himself to Todd.

During the first meeting of the DPS, he did some rap and the others went along with him. He leads the group for a while who sings with him.

Charlie Dalton

Charlie is the most defiant student of the group and maybe of all the school. He dares not obeying to the director and provokes him. He supports Neil and is always up for daring things.

He is always showing his spontaneous and fearless nature. Because of his personality and character, he is often the first one to stand up and do things when Mr. Keating asks for something “crazy” (to rip out a part of the book, to stand up on the desk etc.) He also answers Mr. Keating questions but to say silly things. It's probably because he is very interested in this unusual course. It's a kind of game that is then created between him and the teacher who says “Thanks for playing”. He did very well the different exercises proposed by Mr. Keating in particular the one when they had to walk and declaim a quotation.

He takes risks several times and decided to publish an article in the name of the Dead Poets Society in the school paper saying that girls should be admitted to Welton. When time came to find the culprits he denounces himself in an original and funny way «Mr. Nolan, it's for you. It's God, he suggests we should have girls at Welton». He is courageous and admired by the others, except maybe Cameron.

Contrary to what we could think at first time, he is intelligent (even if he has not excellent grades). He understands very quickly where Mr. Keating wants to go, that's why he says to Cameron “Oh come on Cameron, don't you get anything?”. However, he applies the motto “Seize the day” in an extreme and not reasonable way which requires Mr. Nolan's intervention.

Whatever the consequences can be, he is true to himself and refuses to sign the statement charging Mr. Nolan. At the end, he is being expelled for having punched Richard Cameron and refused to sign the statement accusing Mr. Keating.

Richard Cameron

Richard Cameron is considered as the “brown-noser” of the group. He is listening in each course and writing even if he should not. He respects the rules of the school and often reminds them to his friends: “It's not authorized”, “there is an honor code in this school”. He only thinks of getting good grades and impress his teachers.

At the beginning, during Mr. Keating first course, while the other students are laughing following one of his jokes, he is looking at them and seems rather surprised.

One of the most representative scene is when Richard is reproducing what Mr. Keating is drawing on the blackboard and then says that its “excrement”. He gets confused and crosses out what he did.

When deciding to be part of the DPS, he hesitates a lot and accepts unwillingly. He is being part of the DPS not by conviction but not to be excluded from the group. He joined the “Dead Poets Society” with a huge reluctance and betrays it at the first occasion.

At the end we saw that he, actually, has never believed in Mr. Keating's words and blame him for what happened to Neil. He doesn't hesitate to cooperate with the Headmasters to accuse Mr. Keating in order to save his interests and clearly advises the others to follow his lead.

Knox Overstreet

Knox Overstreet is the “romantic member of the DPS”¹. Since his meeting with Chris Noel -the daughter of old friends of his parents-, he cannot stop thinking about her and falls in love with her.

He is taking risks because of Love. For example, he goes out from school several times (goes to high school, to a match of American football…)

¹ Emotional Balance https://www.glastonburyus.org/staff/LaurettiK/Documents/Emotional%20Balance%20scan.pdf

He uses the encouragement of Mr. Keating and his friends to find the confidence to win the heart of Chris. He applies the “Carpe Diem” and dares to call Chris, go to see her in high school, confess his love etc. He follows Mr. Keating lead by pursuing her no matter what and thus reveals his idealistic and romantic nature. He takes risks, seizes the day and perseveres until he wins Chris' heart.

He is always thinking about her and is often apart from the others (in the bathroom before the theater representation). His objective when integrating the DPS was to find a way to win the heart of Chris.

Gerard Pitts

Gerard Pitts is not that much present in the film. He doesn't have very good grades, that's why he refuses to be part of the DPS at the beginning. Neil encourages him and he becomes more self-confident during the film. His main achievement with his friend Stephen Meeks is to realize a radio.

3. The relation between the main characters

Mr. Keating



Neil's father


Mr. Keating

- Looks for information about his teacher. He is very interested in his past.

- Asks him questions about the DPS

-Entrust his passion with him

-Thanks him for all his advices

-Doesn't do the work

- Not convinced by the method of the teacher

- Realizes he has a strong capacity thanks to him in class during an exercise

- Grateful to Keating

- Reproach him to have given his son a passion for theater

- He blames him for his son's death

He admires Mr. Keating. The only course in which he is interested.

He may think Mr. Keating looks like him in his way of thinking.


- Inspires Neil

- Mr. Keating came to see him when he was sad and give him the strength to overcome difficulties.

-Says him he won't read during the circle. (confession)

- Takes him back to the reality (with his father for example)

- He is impressed by his way to speak so easily

-Doesn't want to be disappointed by his descendants

-Doesn't want to be contradict

-Not truly bad he wants his son to carry out his life successfully

- Forbids him to do the piece

-Charlie appreciates Neil.

-He supports Neil whatever he does. (DPS, theater)

Mr. Keating



Neil's father



-Pushes him to express himself and his talent.

- Sees in Todd a huge potential

- Immediately perceived Todd as very shy and tries to build a trust relationship

- Convinces him to join the circle, even if he doesn't speak

-Insists to see him in the circle

- Shares with him his dreams

- Bucks him up

No special relationship.

He is his son's roommate.

- At the beginning, he perceived him as shy and too calm.

-Tells him about Neil's death

- Respects his grief

Neil's father (Mr. Perry)

- He is shocked by Neil's father attitude but forces himself to calm down.

- He tries not to get involved in Mr. Perry's authority

- Doesn't want to disappoint him

- Problems of communication: he doesn't dare to say what he thinks

- He is submissive

- No special relationship

- He doesn't understand Mr. Perry and he is revolted by his attitude, he tries to speak with him: “Mr. Perry, come on!” but Mr. Keating immediately calms him down.

Mr. Keating



Neil's father



- Mr. Keating creates a real complicity with Charlie

- Mr.; Keating sees that Charlie understood very well the concept of “Carpe Diem”, but he still has to control him in his excess.

- Strong friendship

- Neil thinks that Charlie has gone too far with his jokes and chats about the DPS, he dares to tell him. He sees him as a foolhardy person.

- Todd must think that Charlie is crazy and dares too much. Furthermore, Todd is very attached to the rules' respect.

- No special relationship, he just perceives him as a disrespectful student


II. Analysis of the leaders

1. Neil Perry: a leader to be

a. Presentation

Neil is one of the main characters in the film. He is a very good student, the most serious and Mr. Nolan himself tells him “We expect great things from you this year”. He even did summer school because his father wanted to. His father is very strict and wants to impose his choices to his son: go to medical school and become a doctor while Neil wants to be an actor. At the beginning of the film, he obeys to his father and doesn't contradict him and follows his father's wishes. He is afraid to stand up to his father and take control of his own life (he quits the school annual).

He is liked and respected in the school. During the start of the school year, all his friends came to see him to know how he was doing. He has a passion that reappeared thanks to his teacher and the motto “Carpe Diem”: theater. He believes in Mr. Keating and takes a lead role in recreating the DPS.

b. Neil'squalities that make him a leader

Neil takes initiatives

He found the yearbook of Keating in the library and showed it to his friends during a meal. Then he goes and dares asking the teacher what the dead poet society was. We can see that he is physically leading the group when they call the teacher and run after him.

During one of the meeting of the DPS, he brings a light which he establishes as the “god of the cave”.

Neil is determined which helps him to convince and motivate the others

Neil is enthusiast and determined. He is the most seduced by the idea of recreating the DPS. He is convinced by Mr. Keating's words and encourages the others to be part of the project: “I say we go tonight, who's in?” and he repeats that a second time almost shouting. Neil is capable to convince his friends. In their room, he motivates Todd by shouting and shaking him in order to come to the meeting of the DPS and be fully involved in them.

Neil develops a successor

He tries to change Todd and make him feel that he can become like him. Of course, Mr. Keating has more impact on Todd than his friend does.

Neil allows the team members to make mistakes

When Charlie break different rules of the DPS by inviting girls and proposing them to join or by signing an article, Neil is shocked, he reprimands him but not harshly. Probably he doesn't dare speaking to him because Charlie has a strong personality.

Neil's interpersonal skills

Neil is able to listen, reassure and take advantage of situations. In fact, he helps Todd to bring out of his shell. He shakes him and wants him to be conscious that he can change and be less shy. Moreover, he has humor sense and knows when to use it. An interesting scene was when he saw Todd sitting down and with his birthday's present, he knows how to cheer him up and make him put things into perspective (new use of the desk equipment).

When Charlie came back from his punishment, Neil is the only one to question him and asks him “So what happened?”. He insists because he didn't answer him immediately.

He adapts himself to the environment and the situation

He adapts when he said to Neil: “Forget how it works”. He is ready to change things even if he wants to keep the spirit of the DPS.

He knows when to be demanding and severe. When he is trying to convince his friends to come to the secret meeting of the DPS, he says abruptly, shouting to Cameron “Forget Hager, no! Who's in?”

c. Neil's leadership style

Neil agrees to be considered as the leader. When Mr. Keating gave him the book “5 centuries of verse”, he could have refused to bring it to the meeting. So, his aim is really to reproduce almost the same DPS meetings as they were led in Mr. Keating's period. In fact, he is ready to change some rules and adapts to the members. He says to Todd “Forget how it works” when he was hesitating about going to the first meeting of the DPS.

With regards of authors, different leadership styles can be associated to Neil. He begins to become a charismatic leadership. He is self-confident, has strong convictions (he wants to be an actor and the DPS has to be re-introduced. However, he is not really the vehicle of a vision.

There are some factors that are affecting his style. When he is with his friends, Neil tends to be a leader whereas his relationship with his father is hiding his leadership power. Moreover, his leadership style changes when he is in a crisis situation. He cannot control his emotions and is not a leader anymore. His style is also dependent on the nature of the “task”. The DPS needs everyone's participation and a sharing of poems, feelings etc. There is no need to be authoritative; they are all at the same level.

The style defined by Hersey and Blanchard which would represents most Neil's leadership is the ‘selling' one “which represents a style of leader behavior that is both directive and supportive. Here the leader convinces followers of the importance and necessity of task accomplishment.” In fact, in Neil's case, he does not impose his authority. He listens to the others but he is the one who lead them to participate in the DPS. At the beginning he was really this type of leader but then it was a more participative one: he listens to the others etc.

d. Neil's limits

Neil is not self-aware of him and should develop his emotional intelligence. Neil faces his own crisis in deciding whether to act, or follow his father's wishes. He cannot communicate his true feelings to his father until Mr. Keating pushes him to do so. Neil Perry is too much passionate by theater that he kills himself. He didn't support the pressure.

2. Mister Keating: a charismatic leader

To explain Mister Keating's leadership we chose to split the analysis into 7 mains points of his behavior which are: his vision, his speaking talent, his respect towards the students, his will to reinforce the team spirit, his passion for his job, his emotional intelligence and finally his human qualities.

a. Mister Keating's vision

First of all it is important to say that Mr. Keating has a global vision of what he wants to achieve with his students. At the beginning of the movie, when he arrives very relaxed in class, begins to whistle, it seems that he has does not take seriously his course, that he is just here because it's his job. But this is just a mean to appeal the student's attention. Indeed since the beginning, Mr. Keating knows exactly what he wants his students to achieve with his class and how he will lead them to achieve it.

During his first class, by showing them how life is short using the pictures of the former students that died, he will suggest what is the objective of this course: make the students become free thinkers, and push them to dare expressing their opinions, experimenting life “Carpe Diem” and following their dreams.

Then every one of his class will be organized to follow this goal: Mr. Keating will take the students to the courtyard, having them doing a walking exercise that could seem silly but that proves the danger of conformity. Then by taking them to the football field, he will show them through a simple exercise which consists in shooting into a ball while saying a poetry sentence; that passion is a key element if you want to achieve your own personal goals. In another class, he will ask his students to get up on his desk, just to demonstrate the interest of stepping forward to have a different vision of the situation. This class will teach the students the importance to consider all different opinions, to have a global view of a case before doing something.

Every one of his course is cleverly prepared in order to follow his goal, Mr. Keating was able to have a global vision, a long-term vision of this teaching year, and he elaborated an action plan that every time includes a teasing part for the students and then a thinking part in which they start to think by themselves. This ability to have a global vision is a specificity of great leaders, they do not act randomly, they fixe some goals to reach and then some steps to go by to reach them.

b. A great speaker

Another specificity of great leaders that has Mr. Keating is his speaking gift. Indeed, he knows how to speak to people, but also how to be listened to.

As we have seen before, Mr. Keating knows how to raise the interest of his students, and then as he discreetly but surely well studied the personality of each student, he knows how to adapt his speech to everyone.

Indeed, Mr. Keating knows very well every student, f or instance during the walking exercise he jokes about what each student must be thinking “Mr. Cameron: Is it right? It might be right, maybe or maybe not, I don't know”, he just keeps on with Mr. Overstreet and Mr. Pitts, and show that he knows exactly how each student thinks. He adapts his style of communication to every student, with an extrovert and self confident student such as Mr. Cameron, he will speak directly and loud, but with a shy student such as Todd Anderson, he will go smoothly, and force him to gain self confidence. For example when he asks Todd to go before the class to yawp , he is pushing him to dare expressing himself, and as he sees that it makes Todd even more uncomfortable, he will hide his eyes with his hands, to force him to forget the others, feel more at ease and dare speaking. Mister Keating knows what specific methods to use to encourage them to dare expressing their thoughts.

Nevertheless, Mr. Keating knows when to stop when he realizes that he is pushing too hard his students and making them ill at ease. For instance when he asks Anderson what was language invented for, and ads “come one Mr. Anderson, are you a man or an ameba?” He sees that this joke makes Todd very uncomfortable, and he immediately switches to Neil.

Another characteristic of his speaking gift is that when he delivers an important message, he bends over or sat to be at the same high that his students, and be able to speak to them looking directly into their eyes.

All these methods used by Keating which consist in adapting his speech and his posture, lead people to respect him and listen to him. For instance when he speaks about passion, love, romance and poetry, all the students gather around him and listen very carefully to what he is saying. He has that gift of capturing the interest of his audience.

c. A respectful leader

Contrary to the other teachers that treat really bad the students, speaking to them like dogs, making them believe that they worth nothing and scolding them for every mistake, Mr. Keating shows great respect toward each student. Indeed he calls them by their name, knows their character and shows interest in their abilities. He sees the best in every student, and even when a student shows no interest in his class. For instance, when Mr. Hopkins provokes him with his poem “A cat sat on a mat”, he does not get angry, does not judge him, he uses humor to grade his poem and adds “we are not laughing at you, we are laughing near you” and then he enhances the fact that many great poems deal with simple things such as cats or flowers, which means that he believes in Hopkins abilities to become a great poet.

He never uses bad adjectives to qualify his students ‘works “It's not stupid, good effort! (…)That's excellent! Wonderful! (…) You have the gift! What a performance!” and when he does not like what students did, he does not judge he just gives advices such as “just don't let your poems be ordinary” or “Keep your head about it” when he encourages Mr. Dalton to think before acting. Contrary to what other teachers do, he does not put pressure on his students to have a good results, he is more interested in the progression and development of the boys to reach their best abilities.

Keating show them so much respect that he achieved creating a real link between him and his students. Indeed, they do trust him, and when Neil needs to speak to someone about his private problems, he goes to see Mister Keating.

d. Encouraging the team spirit

We can see through the film that Keating wants at the same time that every single student blossomed and find his own way of thinking, but at the same time he wants to reinforce the team spirit, we could say that he wants them to be all different but all together. Indeed by taking them out of class to do sports (football but also studying poetry through sport) he enhanced the idea of a team. Furthermore to him, a team is a way to have other human being push them to excel that is why by creating a team spirit, Keating's goal is not only to create cohesion and respect among them but also to push them to surpass themselves. We can see that students consider him as the captain of their team when they lift him up after a football game. Furthermore this idea of him being the captain is enhanced with the fact that his students call him “Ô Captain! My captain!”.

Managing his students as a strong team is a characteristic of good leaders, indeed, without wanting to blend all the students in a smooth team, he gathers different characters all together to learn from one another.

e. A passionate teacher

Another point that characterizes Keating's leadership is his passion for his job. When Neil asks him why did he come back to Welton he just answers “I love teaching; I don't want to be anywhere else”. And this passion can be seen during his classes, he speaks with all his heart, changes his voice tones, imitates famous people, moves a lot, like if he was acting, living what he was saying. He also says during the movie that "The human race is filled with passion" and that it is a reason to stay alive.

His passion makes him listened and respected by the students who believe what he tells them. He is so passionate about his job, and wants to convey that passion for poetry that he creates like a mentoring relationship with his students. Conveying passion to raise people's interest about a subject is an important leader's ability.

f. Gifted of Emotional Intelligence

Mr. Keating knows very well how to control his emotions. When someone is provoking him, he knows how to stay calm. Three scenes reflect very well this aspect of his personality.

The first scene is when the school director comes to “scold “him about his “unorthodox methods teaching” and provokes him by saying that he is the one to blame for Charlie's mistakes. Keating does not lose his temper, he stays clams, hold his head high, and just ironically says to him “your reprimand made quite an impression, I'm sure” with a little smile. When the director begins to scream at him that boys at their age can't think by themselves, he loses his smile but does not scream him back, he just stays quiet.

The second scene is when Neil's father comes to him at the end of the theater show. He is very angry against him (because he is convinced that the professor gave his son the passion of theater and told him to go forward in it) and he told him “do not approach my son anymore”. It was very strong, we can see that the teacher is very touch by this feeling but he didn't answer anything and let him go. And when Todd tried to defend him by saying “Mr. Perry, come on!” Keating immediately calms him down saying “don't make it any worse that it is”. He manages very well his emotions and encourages his students to do the same.

The third scene very relevant is when he is fired. Even if he is very sad and must be angry because of this injustice, he stays very calm and accepts it without creating a scene. However we can see how moved and proud he is when many students stand up on their table during the literature class to show him their respect and their love.

Keating only lets his emotions gain him once, when he is informed of Neil's death. Indeed, he pushed Neil to assume his passion, to talk to his father, and he suddenly realizes that the situation was not so simple, that Neil needed help, and he probably feel guilty for not having perceived it or done something.

As a great leader, Keating is gifted with an emotional intelligence that allows him to control himself during difficult situation, and not to get into a “survival” state. He tries to teach his students to do the same, above all with Charlie that he has perceived as the fierier and most daring person, twice in the movie he tells him to stay calm: when he has just been punished by the director for his joke, and when he tries to calm down Neil's father. A great leader has abilities and must try to share them with the members of his team, just as Keating does.

g. Mister Keating's human qualities

In addition to his emotional intelligence the teacher shows many values and qualities during the film. He demonstrates respect, availability, integrity, sense of honor, for example with his membership in the poets circle, and its secrets.

Concerning this last point we can come back on the scene when Neil is very lost about his passion and the fact that his father doesn't accept it. He was here to guide him and tell him what he has to do so tell the truth to his father. It shows the close relation he has with his student.

Another point showing his integrity is that at no times in the movie, he will give up his opinions and his teaching methods. Even when the director comes to scold him, he will argue for his method, and won't change his way of teaching. He has a goal which is to teach his students to think by themselves, and even if this is a very embarrassing goal for such a strict school, he will stick to it until the end. Indeed in such a conservative school, it is not in the director's interest to have students that are encouraged to have a critical view of the things, it is always easier to manipulate and train someone that does not think too much.

Mr. Keating is a great leader because he is gifted with strong human qualities; people can trust him and count on him. He will always be franc, and never give up before blackmailing or manipulation. He is strong enough to defend his ideas and wants the boys to do the same.

In conclusion we could say that Keating is a participating or democratic leader. Indeed according to the authors Hersey and Blanchard, a participating leadership model is characterized by a leader interacting with his followers to achieve a common goal. Keating implicates very much his students in his leadership style. Indeed, he raises a subject and let them think critically about it, let them create their own opinions and ideas. Keating knows until where is leadership has to go, and when he has to step back and let his students thinks by themselves. His style of leadership is well balanced as both leader and followers are part of it. This leadership gives many responsibilities to both parts.

3. Mr. Perry: an authoritative and strict leader

Mr. Perry's relationship with Neil is fully linked to the notions of control and authority. All their discussions are a kind of battles with win-lose outcomes. As a result, their relational climate is cold, particularly when Mr. Perry uses control, neutrality, and superiority rather than problem-orientation, empathy, and equality.

At the beginning of the movie, Mr. Perry abruptly enters Neil's dorm room unannounced. It obviously shows his control over his son. Moreover, seeing his father, Neil's transforms from a confident, relaxed young man into a fearful, weak, squeaky-voiced boy ("Father, I thought you had gone."). Without any summations, Mr. Perry informs Neil that he had to quit the school annual because he decided that it was the right thing for him («I have just spoken to Mr. Noland. I think you're taking too many extra-curricular activities this semester and I have decided that you should drop the school annual.”).This is the first time, but not the last time that he manifests his autocratic decision making. Indeed through the movie we will clearly see that Mr. Perry always makes the decision himself, without taking account of nobody's opinion, event the affected person's one. When Neil mildly voices his objection ("It wouldn't be fair"), Mr. Perry coldly asks Neil's friends to excuse them, and we can clearly see that he is containing his anger when he drags Neil into the hall. He is blind to Neil's concerns but is very concerned about his own embarrassment ("Don't you ever dispute me in public, you understand?"). After this order, he insists by remembering his son that HE is the one who controls his life and this still for a long time ("After you finish medical school and you are on your own, then you can do what you damn well please, but until then, you do as I tell you. Is that clear?"). Facing such unshakeable and stubborn personality, Neil capitulates and even apologizes for "taking on too much".

After hearing Mr. Keating's teachings about "carpe diem," Neil decides to take more control over his life by pursuing his dream of acting despite of his father's opinion and writes a false agreement letter for the administration. Unfortunately, Mr. Perry finds out about Neil's acting and comes to Welton for a confrontation. Neil knows immediately why his father is there and tries to turn the conflict into a discussion ("Before you say anything, please let me explain.”).

But Mr. Perry interrupts him, erupts and once again he uses his superiority to affect Neil: "Don't you talk back to me. It's bad enough that you wasted your time on this absurd acting business, but you deliberately deceived me. How did you expect to get away with this?”.

One more time, we notice the importance of the others opinion for Mr. Perry and especially towards his authority and the way he raises his son. Indeed his seems less angry by Neil's lie than because Neil made him lie to another people: “You made a liar out of me, Neil.”. Then he uses his authority again to force Neil to follow his will: “Tomorrow go to them and tell them you quit.”. As often he uses the rhetorical questions as a tool to impose his authority: “I don't care if the world comes to an end tomorrow night, you're through with that play, is that clear?”. Here he doesn't expect a real answer from Neil, and the latest probably doesn't even dare to think about answering “No”. It is just way to endorse his statements.

Lastly he tries to affect Neil by making him feel guilty: “I made a great many sacrifices to get you here, Neil, and you will not let me down.".

Full of despair, Neil turns to Keating for advice and chooses to act nevertheless. Mr. Perry comes to the play and seems unmoved, totally insensitive and even maybe disgusted by his son's fine performance (which is really great by the way).

Despite the fact Neil tries to implicitly apologize to him through the play; he says while looking at his father at the back of the audience "If you pardon, we will mend…", Mr. Perry roughly drags Neil out of the theatre in front of his friends.

The last confrontation between Neil and Mr. Perry takes place in the Perry's house. There, in a conquered field, Mr. Perry begins a monologue full of reproaches and contempt for his son. At this moment we understand the real reason that pushes Mr. Perry to act this way with Neal: he wants to leave his dreams toward him "You're going to Harvard and you're going to be a doctor--you'll have opportunities that I never had.”. When Neil tries to explain himself, his father replies by exhorting him to talk with a very aggressive tone “Tell me what you feel. Is it more of this acting business? If so, you can forget that.".

All these elements lead us to deduce that Mr. Perry's leadership is clearly based on a Transactional Leadership Model. He uses the reward and punishment system, and obviously more one than another, to being obeyed by his son. He is convinced that everything will be alright, besides that's what he says to his wife just before Neil's suicide, because he implemented a strict but clear chain of command where he is the master and his son the underling. Furthermore he assumes that Neil's filiation implies that he has to follow his lead, as if being his son, Neil ceded all the authority and decision power to him. It seems that Mr. Perry considers Neil's fully obedience as a kind of “implicit clause of the father-son contract”. According to him, all the purpose of their relationship is that a son has to do what a father tells him to do, no matter what. Conciliation, cooperation and open discussion are not planned in this kind of leadership.


After having studied the three main leaders in the film, we thought that Mr. Keating's participative leadership was the best. Indeed, Neil's father leadership is based on a power struggle. Mr. Perry does not take into account Neil's feelings or wishes; he imposes him his power, what leads Neil to be afraid of him and to search how to get around his father's power. For instance Neil prefers lying to his father and creates a fake permission letter rather than telling his father the truth (which is that he wants to act). This kind of leadership is not effective in a business context. Indeed a leader acting as a tyrant won't achieve great objectives. All his team may turn against him or voluntarily do bad work in order to provoke him and generate a direct fight, or his team may lose all interest in their jobs or try to get the leader out of the project by leaving him out of the picture.

Concerning Neil's participative style of leadership, we can say that he was going to become a great leader. Mr. Keating had seen it since the beginning by giving him the poetry book of the Dead Poet Society. Nevertheless, Neil was still too young to be a great leader; he still needed to work on his emotional intelligence that led him to be overtaken by his emotions and to kill himself.

Mr. Keating's democratic leadership is the best in this movie and probably the best that can be used in a business context. Indeed a leader that highly values his colleagues, trust them and makes them feel part of a project will achieve great goals. Managing a whole team by taking into account every characters and valuing differences will constitute a successful leadership. A great leader must gather all the talents and not try to impose his ideas to his followers.

Through the study of this movie, we were able to see concretely some example of good and “not so good” leaderships. What stroked us most was the fact that a great leader is not necessarily someone who will immediately make a lot of noises; it may be a shy person like Todd, who, at the end of the movie that reveals his leadership's skills, or a person that first can be perceived as clownish such as Mr. Keating. Great leaders have visions, and know how to show their potential little by little without trying to impress their followers, but aiming to raise their interest and make them gather around a common objective.