Norma Rae provides an opportunity to explore the concept of servant leaders. What are several examples of servant leadership from the movie?Norma Rae provides an opportunity to explore the concept...

Norma Rae provides an opportunity to explore the concept of servant leaders. What are several examples of servant leadership from the movie?

Norma Rae provides an opportunity to explore the concept of servant leaders. What are several examples of servant leadership from the movie?

Asked on by wdr

6 Answers

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The most obvious example of servant leadership comes in the form of Norma Rae, herself.  She represents this model of leadership on a couple of levels.  The first is that Norma Rae sees herself as a servant first.  She envisions her fight for unionization as not one that will benefit her directly as much as it will represents all of her fellow workers.  She does not gain anything of self interest out of her desire for unionization.  Rather, she suffers greatly for her desire, having to endure much in the way of pressure from management for her to stop.  Yet, she feels compelled to continue the fight because of the benefits unionization will bring to her coworkers.  Norma gives "priority" to the needs of her colleagues and co-workers.  She also represents the concept of servant leadership in her persuasion.  The moment she stands on the table and holds up the "UNION" sign, she does so understanding how the magnitude of the moment will inspire others, causing them to think and reflect about what she is doing and how everyone benefits in such a display.  The idea of servant leadership comes from a basic desire to serve out of a sacrifice, something that Norma Rae embodies throughout the film.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This is one of the best movies I've ever seen, and Sally Fields does an amazing job evoking the emotion of the audience as well as her co-workers to eventually win a victory for the union in her cotton factory.  She is the ultimate example of servant-leader in this film since she not only serves as servant and leader of her family who suffers illnesses from the poor working conditions of her shop, but also the co-workers at the factory.  Without her diligence and hard work, the others employed in the factory would continue to live and work in poor conditions as well.  She sacrifices her time (for which she gets grief from home since she doesn't spend as much time at home once the union talk begins) and eventually loses her own job to ensure a better working life and life in general for her friends and coworkers.  Of course, once the shop is unionized, she gets her job back, but she had no way of knowing that would happen when she took on the big dogs.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Organizing a union in the Deep South was one of the most dangerous acts a worker could commit.  For, to this day, most Southeastern states are non-unionized "right to work" states.  Norma Rae was, indeed, courageous and self-sacrificing as she had to know that she would be fired.  But, she knowingly became the sacrificial victim for her cause, a cause that did succeed.  Norma Rae was fired and four years later finally received back pay after a long time; she chose to work at the plant only two days, however.  This fact raises another question, of course. 

As fate would have it, Norma Rae contracted brain cancer and was refused financial aid from her insurance company, so she went two months without life-saving medications.  Eventually, she received her insurance, but died at age 68.

The union man who comes, Reuben Warshowsky, is certainly another example of servant leadership.

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Norma Rae may also be viewed as a servant leader in her home where she sets an example of courage for her family--though her husband doesn't quite see it her way. One important point emerges from this dual role and this is that roles can conflict with each other. One always must face the question of greater importance and greater good. In choosing temporarily to put the collective workers above her family, Norma Rae demonstrates the ultimate value of caring for the needs of the greatest and weakest number required of servant leadership.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is an interesting and powerful book and movie. It acknowledges the role that servants played (and play) in people's lives. I think that the main example of leadership lies with each servant who participated. Each one was a leader, because it served as an example to others. It took great personal strength and commitment, and was really very brave. Standing up against a societal norm is not an easy thing to do, especially when your livelihood is at stake.
accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Great movie. For me, the most powerful example of servant leadership comes from Norma Rae, as #2 argues. What is so different about her in comparison to other leaders is that she embarks on her struggle for purely unselfish reasons, and is not out to improve her own position alone. Rather, she is definitely trying to fight for the good of all workers, and as a result encounters much suffering as she fights for the rights of others.