Gleason Documentary Reflection
Without a doubt, Steve and Michel Gleason demonstrate various leadership traits of an effective leader. They are both confident, emotionally stable, self-motivated, long-term thinkers, effective communicators, and people-oriented. Steve Gleason is a professional football player with New Orleans’ Saints when he receives the devastating news that changed his life forever. At the age of 34, he is diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a fatal disease that affects a person’s ability to walk, talk and even breathe without hampering their cognitive function. The average life expectancy of ALS patients is 2-5 years although, with technology, it can be extended to decades. Six weeks after Gleason’s diagnosis, his wife realizes she is pregnant. Together, they start documenting sections of their life for the sake of their unborn child. Gleason and Michel show confidence in how they make decisions. Instead of giving up on each other and letting Steve’s condition come between them, they decide to fight for as long as it takes. They do this by talking to each other and trusting each other and members of their family. They decide to start a foundation to give other ALS patients hope while raising funds for the cause and they do this as a team. Another trait of good leadership which they possess is emotional stability. Gleason and Michel demonstrate their ability to control and regulate their behavior in times of frustration and stress. A good leader should be capable of not showing intense emotional reactions when things do not go as planned. Although they are scared to the bone by Steve’s disease, they still put on a strong face and continue leading their lives. Gleason and Michel are self-motivated because, despite the setback they face, they are still determined to achieve their goals. Good leaders do not give up rather they do what they can to be successful. Four months after the diagnosis, they decided to take a trip to Alaska with their family, which is something that most patients would not even consider. Another trait that Gleason and Michel exhibit is long-term thinking. Immediately they find out that they are expectant, they start documenting and recording videos for their unborn baby. Gleason knows that eventually he will lose his ability to talk and he wants to leave a piece of himself to his baby while he still can. He thinks about the future and not just the current situation. Effective communication is another which Gleason and Michel possess. They do not hesitate to talk about the problem at hand with each other. They also have open conversations with family and friends. There was an episode where Gleason has a heart-to-heart conversation with his father about his childhood days. Michel and Gleason are people-oriented, another important trait for leaders. They work as a team and with the help of friends and family, they find the motivation to continue with life despite the chaos they go through.
Without a doubt, Gleason and Michel exhibit positive psychology. Positive psychology is a strategy that keeps a person’s attention, memory, and expectation away from negative things (Moustafa, 2018). Throughout the film, Michel and Gleason show positive psychology in how they choose to concentrate on the good things that are happening in their life instead of pitying themselves. They choose to concentrate on their pregnancy and raising funds for ALS patients with the foundation. Although it is hard for them to do so, they choose to keep going because their aim is to enjoy life while Gleason can still move around. Instead of sitting around and pitying themselves, they take a family vacation to Alaska for the first time, and although their life changes drastically, they choose not to despair but rather focus on the positives.
Yes, without a doubt, Michel and Gleason possess some of the leadership styles discussed in the course textbook such as transformational leadership style. Gleason particularly, since the time he was informed about his terminal illness, he tried his best to enhance positive emotions with the people around him including his family members and with his team members. This is an attribute of a transformational leader. A transformational leader is characterized by a personality that wants the best for his people (Gandolfi & Stone, 2018). Although it is difficult, he makes peace with his condition and accepts that he will never play professional football again. He has a calm personality and he demonstrates perseverance. He tries as much as possible to be a role model to the people that look up to him. This is the reason he started the foundation for ALS patients in order to give them a voice. When he is at the Church with his father, he is still courageous enough to run in front of the congregation. He does not care about failing, he is just determined not to quit. These are qualities of a transformational leader.
From where I stand, I believe Gleason possesses relationship-oriented style of leadership while his wife Michel demonstrates task-oriented leadership style. This is not to mean that Gleason is not task-oriented, only that I feel his wife depicted this aspect more. Gleason is relationship-oriented because he is determined in having a relationship with his unborn child in the best way he could. He is well aware that his health is deteriorating and he takes advantage of this time to record vlogs that his baby will watch in the future. He knows that eventually he will lose his ability to speak clearly and he will not be able to have a conversation with his child until the baby is 4 years old. He records videos because he loves his baby so much and he does not know any other way of showing his love but to tell him through videos. Michel is more task-oriented because she is the one that steps up to take care of Michel when his health deteriorates completely. Michel becomes his personal caregiver while at the same time, being a wife and a mother to their baby. At this time, Michel has to step up and give her husband round-the-clock care while at the same time support him emotionally. Michel is relationship-oriented because she shows emotional intelligence. She knows that she has to be strong for the family especially because at this point, her husband’s health has worsened and she becomes the pillar of the family.
Over the duration of the semester, my definition of leadership has not changed much. However, this course has only enhanced my understanding of matters of leadership. Because of this course, I have expanded my knowledge about leadership styles and leadership traits. Before taking this class, I only had basic knowledge about leadership but I did not know much about the details. I have learned about the various leadership styles that include democratic leadership, coaching leadership, charismatic leadership, transformational leadership, autocratic leadership, bureaucratic leadership, transactional leadership, and collaborative leadership. Furthermore, I have also learned about the various traits that effective leaders should possess including confidence, effective communication, emotional stability, accountability and responsibility, motivation, long-term thinking, and being people-oriented. Additionally, I have learned that good leaders will go out of their way to do what is right for them and other people. Good leaders are also those that put other people’s needs before the needs of other people.
If life threw me this curveball, I honestly, would not know what to do. I bet I would be confused at first and with time, I would have to come to terms with the reality of my condition. I know it would not be easy, but I would pick up the pieces and try as much as possible to lead a happy life. The main thing that would worry me is the thought of dying before achieving the goals that I want to achieve in life. I have always wanted to start a family in my home, and if something like this were to happen before I have a child, I would be devastated. Life is unpredictable and nobody knows what tomorrow holds. The thought of living with a fatal illness such as ALS and having to face the reality that one day, I will no longer be able to walk, move or talk is terrifying. I can only imagine the agony that Gleason and his wife went through. The fact that they had a baby on the way makes this story even more sad and surreal. Knowing that you will never be able to hold a conversation with your child is unbearable. All in all, I would try as much to live a happy and fulfilled life for the remaining time I have. I would try out new things and do all the things that I have always wanted to such as traveling before my condition gets worse.
Gandolfi, F., & Stone, S. (2018). Leadership, leadership styles, and servant leadership. Journal of Management Research, 18(4), 261-269.
Moustafa, Y. (2018). Gleason: A rebirth.