Matchup of the Day: Patton vs. Road House
Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. – George C. Scott, Patton
All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice. – Patrick Swayze, Road House
Today we have something of a sequel to Friday’s Ghost Dog vs. Savage Streets matchup. Last time the films were compared according to which of the protagonists best followed the Eight Virtues of Bushido. This time around we’ll look at the leadership styles of the two warriors in Patton and Road House.
According to this Mental Floss article on Road House, the NYPD uses the film for officer training. The scene where Swayze instructs the bouncer staff “I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice” is considered a good example of how to handle a potentially volatile situation. This is also the philosophy Sawyze’s character Dalton follows throughout the film until the bad guys get too uppity. By contrast, George C. Scott’s General Patton is ready and raring to go kill Nazis at the outset of the film. His zest for battle and aggressive drive to achieve victory earns him the nickname “Old Blood and Guts”. In both films, the characters are brought in to establish discipline and decisiveness in a chaotic environment. With Road House, it’s a lawless bar and, eventually, a whole town. Patton, of course, is set during World War II.
This chart from Material Minds details three types of leadership styles that vary in effectiveness depending on the situation. They are as follows:
- Authoritative leadership is explained as “This type of leader typically dictates policies and procedures as well as goals. Acting often as a micromanager, this type of boss directs and controls all activities without meaningful participation by other members of the team.”
- Participative leaders “encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative.”
- Delegative, or laissez-faire, leadership is where the “leader gives little or no guidance to group members.”
When Dalton arrives at the Double Deuce bar after being hired as a “cooler”, or head bouncer, he immediately sees all sorts of crime, violence and inequity. He makes it clear to the staff that he is running the show henceforth, and proceeds to fire anyone who engages in impropriety. While the situation is not quite as out of control when Patton first arrives to take command in the film, the soldiers are demoralized with little organization. He quickly establishes stricter rules of discipline and sets his sights on achieving victory against the Germans. In both cases, the protagonist walked into an “Environment in crisis”, according to the chart above. In that type of situation, the leadership style required is Authoritarian unless the subordinates are expertly skilled. Neither the bar staff or the soldiers were operating at an expert level, so Dalton and Patton took charge as needed. (Patton’s gung-ho tendencies do get him into trouble during the film. In one instance he slaps a soldier suffering from battle fatigue for being a coward, which leads to him being censured by his commander and pilloried by the media.)
Where Dalton and Patton differ is in their approach to getting the job done. Dalton, as it has been mentioned, seeks to de-escalate where Patton is all about charging in with guns blazing. It is true that Dalton is not involved in actual warfare (at least initially), and so he does not need to be as aggressive. It may be the case with Patton, however, that his aggressiveness is much more about who he is as a person. There is one scene in the film where another general tells Patton “I do this job because I’ve been trained to do it. You do it because you LOVE it”. Dalton does not seem to prefer conflict. In fact, there is a past incident where he killed a man in self-defense that still haunts him. There is some discrepancy in Dalton’s belief system, however. Early in the movie when his doctor/soon to be girlfriend jokingly asks if he ever wins a fight after reading his lengthy medical records, he replies “Nobody ever wins a fight”. But later on, when she tries to talk him out of going toe to toe with the villains, he says, “I’m only good at one thing, Doc. I never lose”.
In the end, Dalton ends up taking on the greedy tyrant who is draining the town. His willingness to fight inspires the rest of the townsfolk to stand up and fight as well. He sees that “it’s time to not be nice” and rises to the occasion. Patton inspires his men to face the Nazis and relentlessly pushes his way to victory. It is interesting that Patton in the film believes that it is his spiritual destiny to be victorious. Dalton says that he attained a degree in philosophy, studying “Man’s search for faith. That sort of s**t.” That aspect of their leadership style is probably too weighty to discuss here.