This summer, while teaching my Introduction to I/O Psychology course, we had a discussion on different leadership theories. When we discuss these theories, it helps for me to have examples of different well known leaders so that the kids can see the strengths and weaknesses of each theoretical perspective. Some observations: MLK, JFK, and Ghandi have all been useful examples over the years. Oprah has aged out as a well-known leader for the students. With a little bit of prodding, students get the idea of Jim Jones. Certainly, Steve Jobs was quite appropriate for the last year.
This summer, one of my students, in trying to relate to a leader who changed society or started a social movement declared that Katniss Everdeen, from the Hunger Games Trilogy was a transformational leader. Since I had not read the books at the time, I could not say Yay or Nay. So I read them, thinking I might be able to use her as another example that Kids These Days could relate to.
Wait. I did not read the trilogy. I devoured it. I read the entire trilogy in 10 days. Then I but them down for 48 hours. And then I read the entire trilogy again. I LOVE these books. Indeed, I spent most of July in Panem.
But here’s the thing: Katniss Everdeen is NOT a transformational leader. Yes, she was the inspiration for an entire movement or rebellion, but it seems to me that she inspired based on what people projected upon her. She is charismatic, but she no rhetorical skills. Peeta did, but you know, in the third book, EVENTS OCCURRED and he was not so much on the leadership train.
In fact, although I admired Katniss’ physical skills, hunting prowess and ability to quickly analyze a social situation, she annoyed me mightily. It took me until I was halfway through the third book the second time to figure out why: she didn’t act; she reacted. (Well, there was that one big act at the end, but otherwise? Reacting) I like my heroines on more of the feminist side (i.e., Buffy). And yes, with Katniss’ physicality and not being boycrazy (Bella, we are all looking at you, bless your heart), she is a good role model for girls. But I perceive that real transformational leaders have a positive goal for the group that is not imposed upon them and that they are more active in creating and projecting themselves as the leaders to help their followers reach these goals.
But hey. I’m open. What do you think? I certainly think this could be a great conversation in a class where folks know who Katness Everdeen is.