Leadership in Argo

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Deni Donevski, Harmony Huskinson, Alma Telibecirevic


Directed by Ben Affleck

Warner Bros. Pictures

During the Iranian hostage crisis in November 1979, six Americans are hiding out in the home of the Canadian ambassador. If the Iranians find out they are there, the Americans will be killed. Iran is in uproar with the U.S. over several political issues, such as America’s harboring of former shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who tortured those who opposed his regime.

Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA agent, thinks up a scheme to save the Americans from the Iranian forces that wish to destroy them. In order to leave the country, the Americans must convince airport officials that they are not American and not associated with the government.

Tony Mendez risks his life for the sake of the Americans stuck in Iran.

So, they must pretend to be producers, cameramen and writers for a science fiction movie in Iran. Mendez works directly with some of the most renowned names in Hollywood to save the Americans stuck in Iran. After convincing the media and Iranian officials of the plot, Mendez flies to Iran to collect his cast.

The ethical dilemma arises when Mendez’ boss, Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), calls him the day before the rescue operation to cancel everything. He says it will be an embarrassment to the government if the plan falls through and the Americans die. Everything is on the line.

Mendez spends a difficult night contemplating the situation. Should he disregard orders and go through with the plan, which is the Americans’ only hope? Or should he listen to his supervisor and let the government figure it out? In the end, he sticks to his values and pursues the plan. The Americans make it safe out of the country and all is well.

The scared Americans try to convince Iranian security that they are a Canadian film crew!

Mendez shows his sense of charismatic leadership when he sticks with his plan. In order to convince the Americans to take on the role of Canadian filmmakers, he must believe in his plan wholeheartedly. Without his confidence, the entire movie is meaningless.

Ben Affleck is also a great leader because he won best picture thanks to his talent as director!

The Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), acts as a servant leader because he risks everything to save the lives of the Americans. By harboring them in his home, he puts himself at risk and his entire country at risk for war. But he realizes the value of human lives and leads for the sake of others. He keeps the Americans calm and safe despite their stir-crazy attitudes near the end of the film.

O’Donnell represents bureaucratic leadership because he follows the rules of government. He believes in the greater good of the system rather than individual lives. However, he faces his own ethical conflict when Mendez calls him and says he will go through with the plan. At that point he must decide whether to help Mendez and risk the government’s image, or basically kill the lives of the Americans. Mendez needs O’Donnell to succeed. In the end O’Donnell follows through and sends the airplane tickets for the Americans. If he had not done this, they all would have died.

So the risk was quite high!

Argo is a great film for leadership and ethical dilemmas because it boils down a leader to his or her sense of conviction. Without believing in oneself, a leader cannot help others.