Given the film, Erin Brockovich, construct a synopsis that addresses the following:
1. How would you describe Brockovich as a leader, including her role, characteristics, and towards what did she attempt to “move” his followers?
2. A description of her followers, including their predisposition/attitudes towards the leaders and situations.
3. What is her leadership style and how her style is or is not appropriated, given the situation and the characteristics of the followers?
4. Identify and explain Erin Brockovich's weaknesses, challenges or potential areas for improvement as a leader.
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Erin Brockovich displays the successful power of one individual against massive structures of power. Erin Brockovich comes across a concealed case of corporate malfeasance and wishes to galvanize the community members in taking action against an awesomely powerful force.
As a leader, Brockovich demonstrates some distinct traits. One trait is her charisma. Brockovich is shown to be a very charismatic leader in how she is able to move the community of Hinckley into mobilizing against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Part of the reason she is so successful is because her charisma resides in honesty. Throughout the film, Erin is shown to speak from a position of blunt honesty, enabling her to be so taken in by anyone who comes into contact with her. When she comments about her job, this honesty becomes clear: "That is my work, my sweat, and my time away from my kids! My kids! If that is not personal, I don't know what is." Brockovich's charismatic element of leadership is evident in such an idea. It enables individuals to trust her and to see that she is honestly fighting for their rights. She demonstrates herself to be an authoritarian leader "with a heart." She takes charge of the situation and does not accept inertia or obstacles. She powers through in the name of what she believes to be right. As an activist fighting for what is "right," the leadership quality of zeal is a part of her charisma. For example, when she disparages lawyers to Donna Jensen, Erin is able to win her trust. Donna recognizes that Erin is going to fight for her no matter the consequence or obstacle. For someone who has been bullied by those in the position of power, this is compelling. Erin's charisma as a leader rests in her ability to be honest and her direct manner of speaking to people, gravitating towards her as a result.
This quality of leadership is critical to the people of Hinckley that Erin represents. As the narrative develops, it has become clear that the people of Hinckley believe that there is no hope for them. They have moved to a point where they know that PG&E is not going to hear them. The people that follow Erin have had their voices silenced by a corporation that knows how to use the legal system to their advantage. Erin's charisma as a leader rests in honesty and willingness to validate their voices. For the people that follow Erin, this is something that has not been evident. They follow Erin because of this. Erin's style of leadership is driven from an authority that she gives voice to those who lack it. This is demonstrated when Erin speaks on their behalf: "Annabelle Daniels: 714-454-9346. 10 years old, 11 in May. Lived on the plume since birth. Wanted to be a synchronized swimmer so she spent every minute she could in the PG&E pool. She had a tumor in her brain stem detected last November..." The validation of voice is one aspect of Erin's leadership that appeals to those who follow her.
Erin is not shown to need really any change in her leadership style. Given the resistance and inertia that those in the position of power display towards those who need authentic and real change, she is shown to exert the proper amount of force and voice as she works to create active change in the lives of those who follow her. In a world where those in the position of power silence others, her leadership style represents an avenue of change.
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