The Pursuit of Leadership in the Film the Pursuit of Happynes

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Updated: Mar 07, 2023
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The 2006 film, The Pursuit of Happyness, is based on Christopher Gardner’s real-life biography and is inspired with good leadership skills. In the film, the actor Will Smith portrays Christopher Gardner himself. Gardner’s character was a leader to his son by showing him the difficulties in life by them going through a crisis themselves. They experience hardships like eviction of their own apartment, losing their support of the mom, living in shelters, and only having to rely on selling bone density scanners for a small profit that barley benefits them. No matter what life hit Gardner, his main goal for a better life by accomplishing a career position as a stockbroker remained pursued and continued to inspire his own son to know who his father was and what he was capable of. These qualities of leadership reference on two readings from the book Leadership Development Studies: A Humanities Approach and one reading handout by Daniel Goleman. The readings include: Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl 302-304), “Three Roles of the Leader in the New Paradigm” (Covey 555-560), and “Leadership that Gets Results” (Goleman 462-472). 

In Viktor E. Frankl’s excerpt Man’s Search for Meaning, he makes a connection in finding a purpose to life during a man’s experiences in a concentration camp. “As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal” (Frankl 303). This quote from the excerpt makes a connection to Gardner’s situation by him maintaining his goal in a positive outlook to provide a better life for him and his son in the future. Frankl also informs that a man suffers through making his destiny and later accepts his suffering as task. In the film, Gardner definitely suffered before reaching his destiny to a happy life. He faces a task of dealing life with no salary and being homeless with his son until his works for a miracle to change that. Stephen R. Covey’s “Three Roles of the Leader in the New Paradigm” references Gardner’s leadership traits based on the three basic functions: pathfinding, aligning, and empowering. Covey explains pathfinding “ties together your value system and vision through a strategic plan” (Covey 556). This “strategic pathway” he mentions relates to Gardner because he has a vision as a having a happier life by earning the job as a stockholder. 

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The path he chooses is his strategy to becoming a successful by working his hardest during his internship. “When people are filled with true understanding of the needs, when they share a powerful commitment to accomplishing the vision, when they are invited to create and continually improve the structures and systems that will meet the needs, then you have alignment” (Covey 556). As Covey states, aligning ensures the contribution to achieving the person’s mission and vision. Gardner contributed all his time and patience in ensuring that he will make it up to his son and the sake of escaping homelessness. “Individual purpose and mission are commingled with the mission of the organization. When these purposes overlap, great synergy is created” (Covey 557). Synergy is mentioned by Covey and claimed in terms of greater effect toward organizations. Gardner is empowering to his son and to life as cooperation. He equally treats them to be necessary for an outlook. His son sees his dad as empowerment through everything that happens while the mom is absent. Gardner is the single parent responsible for everything creating him to serve the importance and the needs to be there for his son. In Daniel Goleman’s “Leadership that Gets Results”, he informs emotional intelligence as a primer and “the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively [in which] consists of four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill” (Goleman 462). 

All these capabilities that represent Gardner’s character traits as a leader. He finds all his capabilities like Goleman describes through the effectiveness of Gardner’s experiences during his internship. A scene in the film features Smith as Gardner at an interview. He is dressed down very casually instead of business professional. Although it was shocking and unacceptable in most cases, he had his own style in convincing the company to consider he had what it takes to work for them. He pulled through during his first week of internship by managing to set a meeting with a higher company to sponsor them. Overall, this influences my understanding of leadership by believing where a leader starts at. Gardner became a multi-millionaire, but he had started off as a homeless man. The film demonstrates that he would’ve never known or have seen himself as a leader based on everything he had gone through before making it big. What I take from the film is that the real world is rougher than it seems and to value everything I have because not everyone has the luxury to simply have a roof over their heads. It takes faith, hard work, and never giving up to reach your goals.

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The Pursuit of Leadership in the film The Pursuit of Happynes. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from