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12 O Clock High Case Study Essay

Compare and Contrast Leadership Styles of Group Commander – Twelve O’Clock High Leadership in war time is a dynamic process. No one particular commander is exposed to the same challenge and implements a textbook solution. While leadership doctrine is provided to commanders, it serves more as a guideline than anything else. This situation can be clearly seen in the leadership and management styles of General Frank Savage and Colonel Keith Davenport. Both of these individuals were faced with the challenge of leading a Bomber Group during World War II.

Grossly undermanned and equipped, their directive from command was to give maximum effort and fly their assigned missions until replacement aircraft and personnel could be brought up to the front. Each commander was faced with similar challenges, yet reacted differently. In this analysis, each leader’s form of communication, standard enforcement, and leadership methods will be compared and contrasted. Communication is likely one of the most important aspects of leadership. That being the case, it is probably the most difficult leadership trait to master effectively.

Within Twelve O’Clock High there was communication between the Wing Commander, the Group Commanders, and then on to the group members. In terms of both the Group Commander’s communication with the Wing Commander, it was largely informal with both the commanders. However, communication between the Group Commander and the group members, General Savage and Colonel Davenport had two different communication styles, at least initially. Colonel Davenport was significantly more inform in how he communicated with his men than General Savage.

This was likely due to Colonel Davenport’s desire to relate on a personal level with his followers. The group was faced with a high operations tempo and Colonel Davenport likely saw it as a way to ease their stress. The group would focus on the mission and not have to worry about the interaction with command. However, this caused the group to begin forgetting the little things and translated later on to the loss of fellow wingman. General Savage was very formal in how he communicated and demanded the respect and admiration from his group.

He did this by enforcing the chain of command and setting the example both verbally and nonverbally in how he carried himself. Examining either commander’s communication style, one should also consider how each instilled a sense of discipline and how a particular standard was enforced. In times of war, maintaining a unit’s morale can be a challenging and daunting task. Commanders and Senior NCOs are responsible for their respective unit’s morale and ensuring their assigned mission is completed.

Colonel Davenport’s solution to morale problems was to allow the group to get back from their missions and drink and relax. In mean time, he relaxed military standards in many ways to include: training, uniforms, customs and courtesies, security, and many other areas. While this allowed the group to decompress it caused the aircrews to begin making small mistakes which ultimately unit member lives and in some instances required pilots to abort their mission. General Savage took a more disciplinarian approach to how he commanded the group.

One of his first actions as commander was to correct the gate guard of the installation. The gate guard failed to inspect the general’s authorized pass or salute the staff car as it passed through the checkpoint. The general instructed his driver to pull over, General Savage then exited the car and proceed to provide constructive feedback to the guard. This was only the start to what General Savage did to instill discipline in the group. Throughout his command, he would ensure group members had a keen eye for details.

The reasoning was that if the group was detailed oriented on the ground, when in the air they would be just as astute if not more so. Given the previous actions of Colonel Davenport and that the unit was performing wartime missions, General Savage’s strict discipline methods were necessary to ensure the unity and safety of the group before, during, and after assigned missions. When examining the leadership methods of General Savage and Colonel Davenport, clear distinctions can be observed in terms of the realized urgency and purpose each Group Commander utilized with their respective methods.

Colonel Davenport was concerned about the group completing their assigned mission. However, he allowed each aircraft commander to act with a certain level of autonomy on missions. This was observed and corrected by General Savage remanded a crewmember that violated group integrity during a mission. General Savage was a commander that ran the group as much by the book as any commander could. To demonstrate his seriousness in following protocol, any violators would be transferred to the Leper Colony with Lieutenant Colonel Gately.

The Leper Colony was a creation of General Savage for Lieutenant Colonel Gately to demonstrate the importance of wingmanship and proper command presence. Given that the group was undermanned and underequipped, General Savage’s leadership methods were more effective than that of Colonel Davenport’s. However, a common struggle that each commander faced was that of defining “maximum effort”. Peace time operations can have periods of high operations tempo. However, after some time operations often subside and units resume normal operations.

In war time, it is important as a commander to find the proper balance between maximum effort and overexertion/overuse of your followers and equipment. General Savage and Colonel Davenport were both given the responsibility to lead a group in a time of war. Each faced similar situations and had alike circumstances relating to being undermanned and underequipped. This comparison shows that even though two leaders are exposed to parallel situations, the resulting actions and conclusions will likely be different given the differences in each leader’s form of communication, standard enforcement, and leadership methods.

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