Essay about Push: Leadership and Savage

Submitted By BOBBIEDEE
Words: 1525
Pages: 7

Twelve O’clock High chronicles the tale of a bomber regiment in World War II, headed by the incomparable General Frank Savage. Savage’s results as the leader of the 918th can be stated as nothing short of exceptional, and observing his behaviors and the relationships he builds throughout the war is a study in leadership under extremely difficult circumstances. Wartime is one of the most difficult environments a person can experience, and one where a person is challenged to perform extraordinary behaviors, but interestingly one where personality must not be a determining factor in performance, and that the system must function perfectly. Meaning simply that in war people are wounded and killed and someone must take their place and absorb their functions with immediacy and effectiveness not often required in the business world. Frank Savage’s personality is important to his success as the leader of the 918th but not crucial, evident in Major Stowall’s statement regarding the difference between Savage and Merrill being “two inches in height”; however they had disparate results with the same organization.
The film begins with the failure over a period of Colonel Davenport, original commander of the 918th, and pointedly the General in charge questions Davenport’s failure stating, “But he looks so good on paper… man like that can’t cut it, we’re in trouble.” As one would expect, the General is most assuredly receiving harsh criticism from his superiors due to the 918th’s troubles, but he regards the situation properly, does not make the fundamental attribution error and just blame Davenport, instead he grabs his hat and goes to speak directly with Davenport. Through skillfully approaching and questioning Davenport (the General simply states that “A man makes his own luck” and avoids blaming Davenport therefore diffusing the detrimental natural defensiveness one would display in Davenport’s position) about the errors made on his latest mission. The General realizes that Davenport had become too attached to his men and a change in command was needed, relieving his command with a brief “A man has only so much to give and you’ve given it”. Therefore he assigns Frank Savage to command the group. Savage behaved admirably throughout the entire development as he removed the rose-colored glasses to truly examine his friend Davenport’s performance, he brings his friend’s failings to the attention of his superior, and most importantly is prepared to assume Davenport’s position when he criticizes Davenport’s performance. This is crucial because Davenport is such an able person, and would typically become defensive of his efforts, which were substantial, probably lashing out at Savage with statements such as “Well, why don’t you take over then?” as most are want to do when put in Davenport’s shoes. As Savage is prepared to assume the reigns he feels more comfortable criticizing his friend (he also knows him well and is therefore less inclined to make the fundamental attribution error and more likely to turn his attention to the system) displaying excellent leadership skills.
Subsequently, Savage begins command of the 918th with his stated goal being to give them pride in their accomplishments, to achieve a group attitude that “the last thing a man will want is to be left on the ground.” However Frank knows that the system at Archbury is broken, otherwise his capable friend would not have been broken, and his approach is to redraw the black lines that the military intended on the base by becoming very strict. Savage adopts the opposite attitude of Davenport, who was buddy-buddy with his “boys”, as he sees discipline lacking on the base. He also reprimands personnel immediately, makes necessary personnel changes, and closes the saloon on the base, all to signal to the troops that a change in the failing system has begun, and that he intends to mold the group into a successful combat unit. Discipline is crucial in this situation because the