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Organisational Behaviour - Movie Review

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Autor:  anton  09 July 2011
Tags:  Organisational,  Behaviour,  Review
Words: 4000   |   Pages: 16
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GMBA January 2008

Avinash Anand

“We mortals are but Shadows and Dust Maximus… Shadows and Dust!”

- Proximo


The movie, set in 180 A.D. traces the journey of a man who goes from being a trusted army General to the Emperor of Rome to a Slave to a Gladiator who eventually defies the Empire to exact his revenge and ensure that Rome gets converted back into a Republic.

The movie highlights various aspects of inter personal relationships, group dynamics, leadership qualities and personal qualities such as courage, determination, self belief, love, jealousy, ambition and most of all Power.

Character Analysis

Maximus (Played by Russell Crowe)

The central character of the movie – Maximus plays the role of an army general, a slave and eventually a powerful Gladiator . He is someone who epitomizes courage, leadership, wisdom, fortitude and selflessness.

As an army general in the Roman Empire, he is dedicated to carrying out his duties as instructed by his Cesar. He looks up to his Cesar and Roman Empire with a lot of respect and believes that everything he does is for a cause. He is chosen by Marcus Aurelius as the worthy successor of Rome but the situation soon changes when Commodus kills the Emperor, orders the killing of Maximus and gets his family murdered. A wounded and forlorn Maximus is soon captured by nomads and sold as a Slave to fight in flea markets.

He continuously motivates his team of Gladiators and does not hesitate to take charge when they are put up against a series of fights. By exhibiting all the abilities of a natural leader, he is able to earn the respect of everyone who interacts with him. These include the Emperor, Lucilla, his army and his friends. On reaching Rome, Maximus dreams of an opportunity to get even with Commodus and fights for the sole reason of facing him. Eventually, by the power of his will, he gets his revenge by defeating Commodus in front of the large Roman crowd and asks for the wishes of Marcus Aurelius (Conversion of Rome to a Republic) to be fulfilled.


Inclusion & Sociability

Expressed Wanted

• Is an extremely private person by nature and does not show much intention to be sociable

• In a rare instance, in order to win the crowd he raise his sword after the Gladiator fight against the Barbarians • Being a private personality, he does not expect people to include him in social activities

• He wants the crowd in the Gladiator games to love him.

Control & Leadership

Expressed Wanted

• Being a natural leader, every time he finds a situation out of control, he automatically takes charge

• In all the battles, he portrays himself to be fully in control and responsible for the situation • He is proud to serve his country whenever required and does not mind being in a controlled and regulated environment

Affection & Warmth

Expressed Wanted

• Is extremely affectionate towards his family ,Lucilla, Lucius, his army men and Marcus Aurelius

• Is kind by nature and this shows in his interactions with fellow Gladiators

• Initially, all he wants by way of affection is to be with his family and spend time at home

• After the murder of his family, the only person from whom he seeks some affection is Lucilla


Maximus’ Johari Window analysis is as seen below.

Known to Self Not Known to Self

Known to others Arena

• Courageous Fighter.

• Natural Leader

• Fair in Judgement

• Enjoys loyalty of his team (army).

• Empathetic

• Selflessness

• Wisdom

• Fortitude Blind Spot

• Underestimates his might as a political leader

Not Known to others Façade

• Family loving

• Religious, prays in private Unknown

• Degree of affection for Caesar

• His ability to fight for his survival

Maximus� analysis through Johari Window reveals that he shows characteristics of Type D which is normally seen as the Ideal Window.

The Ideal Window Diagram

In the above, diagram, A represents Arena, BS represents Blind Spot, F represents Façade and U represents Unknown. The Ideal Window in the first example reflects a high degree of trust in the group or in any relationship significant to the person. Among managers, Type D practices constitute an ideal state from the standpoint of organizational effectiveness.

Maximus is a great leader who likes honesty and trust with all members of his team. In order to build this trust and loyalty, he demonstrates his abilities on the battlefield and earns the respect and trust of his team members. Once this relationship is established, and the members are comfortable with Maximus, the leader, a two way communication process gets established wherein there is feedback as well as disclosure and this is seen especially in Maximus’s interaction with Juba.

Marcus Aurelius (Played by Richard Harris)

Marcus Aurelius – a great Roman Emperor with the vision of a peaceful and just empire. A philosopher – Marcus wants the world to look up to Rome as its light. He has spent all his time as Cesar to make sure that his vision of Rome is realised.

Even though he holds the position of Cesar, he strongly believes in the Republic system of empire where highest powers are vested with the Senate. He puts this belief over the interests of his son who is aiming to become the next ruler of Rome. This shows the mark of a selfless leader and a visionary.

He wants to appoint a morally upright man as his successor who will eventually hand over power to the senate and does this by chosing Maximus because of his integrity and capabilities. This decision of his is taken in a very strong and negative way by Commodus who eventually murders him.


Inclusion & Sociability

Expressed Wanted

• Marcus’ presence at the battlefield in spite of his poor health is a proof of good amount of expressed inclusion. • He wants to be fondly remembered by his people as a leader who did good to the empire. This is evident from his dialogue with Maximus.

Control & Leadership

Expressed Wanted

• Marcus shows a high degree of expressed control by taking powers from senate for better governance.

• His presence in the war as a figurehead also shows high degree of expressed control • Marcus shows a low degree of wanted control when he denies help offered by Commodus and mounts the horse on his own.

Affection & Warmth

Expressed Wanted

• When Marcus asks his daughter about her journey.

• When Marcus asks Maximus about his son and home.

• When Marcus tells Maximus that you are the son that I should have had.

• Marcus accepts that the faults of his son are the failure of himself as a father expressing the love he has for his son.

• When Marcus tells his daughter Lucilla, �Let us pretend that you are a loving daughter, and I am a good father’.

• When Marcus asks Maximus to embrace him like a son and bring old man another blanket.

• Marcus’ wish to be remembered by Romans also shows that he wants affection.

Lucilla (Played by Connie Nielsen)

Lucilla is the daughter of Marcus Aurelius and sister of Commodus.She is a strong and pragmatic lady who controls her brother and is able to manipulate him. Marcus realizes his daughter’s potential and remarks "If only you had been born a man, what a Caesar you would have made. You would have been strong but would you have been just?"

She is a prudent lady who offers her brother political advice and asks him to be wary of the Senate. Lucilla is an affectionate mother. She loves her son dearly and protects him from her brother Commodus who could kill him as he was the heir to the throne.

Lucilla is in love with Maximus and wants him to be the Emperor of Rome. She conspires with Senator Gracchus to help free Maximus from the slaves and kill her brother Commodus. Lucilla repulses her brother’s sexual advances towards her and protects her integrity.


Inclusion & Sociability

Expressed Wanted

• Shows involvement in affairs of the empire and is always seen participating in court

• She interacts with the Senate and influences them to buy back Maximus’ freedom. • Wants herself to be included more predominantly in the matters of the throne.

Control & Leadership

Expressed Wanted

• Controls her brother’s actions and strongly stands for him.

• Comes forward to handle the situation when Commodus engages himself in a rough argument with the senator Gracchus.

• Controls the actions of few senators and other people when she tries to free Maximus and topple the regime of Commodus. • She is very strong headed and cannot be possessed easily.

• She refuses to tell her brother where she was and tells him to stop scheming.

• She resists her brother’s lecherous advances towards her.

Affection & Warmth

Expressed Wanted

• Is extremely affectionate towards her son and protects him from her brother.

• She cares for her father and her brother. She saves her brother many a times from falling into trouble at the hands of the Senate.

• Is an extremely warm and kind person • She wants love from Maximus whom she admires dearly

Commodus (Played by Joaquin Phoenix)

The son of great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, Commodus is the epitome of pure evil. A spoilt child deprived of love who wants to gain control over everything around him. His greatest desire is to become Caesar after his father. This obsession for power drives him to kill his father and order the killing of Maximus – the preferred choice for leading Rome.

He is overtly ambitious, extremely greedy and shrewd. Has a lot of love for family and expects the same in return and is disappointed when he doesn’t get it. His loneliness and insecurity causes him to be very dependent on his sister and these feelings take an incestuous turn. A coward on the battlefield, he is a total escapist when it comes to facing unnerving situations. He is a morally bankrupt personality who demands respect and love from his people but does not do anything to earn it. This is seen when he re-starts the Gladiator games to entertain the Roman mob by giving them a spectacle of death.


Inclusion & Sociability

Expressed Wanted

• He brings the mob of Rome together by restarting the Gladiator games thus ensuring that people like him

• Expresses the need to act as a Father Figure to the people of Rome

• Portrays to be a merciful king • Wants his men to include him in their Circle of Trust

• Wants the people of Rome to accept him as one of their own

Control & Leadership

Expressed Wanted

• Likes to be glorified as a leader without any contribution

• Believes that his ambition is enough to control an empire

• Expresses a strong desire to control even at the cost of the lives of his near & dear ones

• Is adamant about ruling the Roman Empire without any help from the senate

• Likes to control the actions of his sister &his nephew • He is extremely egoistic and does not like to be controlled

• Expresses strong negative feelings when someone else takes charge

Affection & Warmth

Expressed Wanted

• Is extremely affectionate towards his sister and nephew

• His feelings towards his sister move to the point of being incestuous which highlights the need for love.

• Expresses the intention of loving all his subjects • Demands the same love from his sister that he has for her

• Wants people working for him to love and respect him

Proximo (Played by Oliver Reed)

Proximo is an ex-slave & gladiator who gained his freedom from Marcus Aurelius, by winning the will of the crowd. He considers himself to be in the entertainment business - a business of buying slaves, training them to be fighters and eventually become Gladiators. He buys Maximus, in whom he sees himself at a younger age. He trains Maximus and makes it possible for him to go to Rome and dream of revenge against the new emperor, Commodus. His character is deeply conflicted as he doesn't know whether to assist the man he has discovered is a former army general, or to make all the money that he can. But, eventually, he ends up helping Maximus in earning the latter’s freedom.

He is constantly seen acting as a mentor and guide to al his fighters (gladiators) by constantly giving them inspirational talks before fighting. One of his most significant moments is when he tells Maximus “We mortals are but shadows and dust” by which he means that whatever we mortals do, it will eventually be forgotten in time.

Team Development Through:

Dr Bruce Tuckman

5 stage Model

Stage I – Forming

Proximo who is in the entertainment business brings together, a set of slaves to fight and entertain the crowds. Seen in this group of people is the versatility of cultures that each of them belongs to. There is Maximus, an ex army general, whose family has been murdered and who does not want to retaliate to any kind of provocation that he is subjected to. He does not believe in killing people to entertain a crowd. Then there is Juba who is a hunter but is somehow captured from a salt mine and has been offered to Proximo. Finally, there is Hagen, a German Barbarian who is already a part of this team and is used to test the abilities of the new members. There are other slaves who play a vital role in the team, but have not been highlighted as much as the above three characters.

Stage II – Storming

In this stage, slaves are selected and classified according to their abilities, which are tested by making them fight against Hagen. One of the most important storming activities is portrayed by the first fight in Zucchabar. In this fight the slaves were tied in pairs with chains and the principles of “survival of the fittest” and “team coordination” were tested to the utmost. Furthermore, in the next fight, Maximus (a.k.a Spaniard) epitomizes leadership as he single handedly wins a battle against four warriors, thus leading by example which is one of the most important traits of leadership. After the fight, he is acknowledged by the rest of his team members and they demonstrate this by bowing their heads as Maximus walks back.

Stage III – Norming

It is in this stage that the team realizes that the ultimate aim is to stay together to survive while fighting the gladiator games in the Colosseum. This is constantly seen by Proximo’s motivational talks and strategy formulation wherein he makes the team understand the significance of playing the crowd in order to survive and win their freedom. A sense of togetherness is seen when Hagen risks his own life by eating from the bowl of food provided to Maximus. He does this to ensure that no harm is done to the general by poisoned food. A strong relationship is also seen between Juba and Maximus when they talk about each other’s families.

Stage IV – Performing

Once inside the arena, Maximus takes charge as the leader and formulates a strategy to overcome the barbarian attack. It is very clear once the fight starts, that the team is for the leader and the leader is for the team. An early example of this team spirit is seen when Hagen gets hurt by an arrow and is about to be run over by a chariot. Maximus then dives and pushes Hagen out of the chariot’s path, risking his own life in the process. As the battle progresses, Maximus starts to lead the way by giving orders and the others ably assist him in bringing down the barbarians. Few instances of this are seen when Maximus applies his army experience on the battlefield. He orders his men to form a group shield so that all members are protected from the shower of arrows. Again, Maximus was supported by his team in forming traps during the battle which took down the chariots. Finally, the handing over of a sword to Maximus by Juba is a classic example of trust that the team has in its leader.

Stage V – Adjourning and Mourning

After the final battle with Commodus, Maximus, before dying, requests the Roman army to free his men. The queen and the senator decide to honour Maximus for his service to Rome and give him a grand burial. Juba, on the other hand, the noble aid of Maximus in the end is seen burying the figures of Maximus’s wife and son to pay respect to him. A great closure follows when Juba is seen saying the words “we will meet again but not yet…not yet”.

Situational Leadership

Leadership can be defined as the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of goals. In this movie, four characters show different styles of leadership as the movie progresses. Dyadic interactions of Maximus with his king and the slave owner Proximo portray good relations between a boss and a sub ordinate. We will look into the leadership styles used by Marcus Aurelius, Maximus, Commodus and Proximo.


Maximus is someone who always wants to lead by example. It is evident right from the start when he shouts “Stay with me”, strikes the enemy first and leads his army into a winning battle against the Germanic Barbarians. He constantly keeps motivating his people be it the army or his team of gladiators. One of the strong lines he keeps repeating in the movie is “Strength and Honour”. It shows his aggressive yet reassuring attitude towards getting things done. Maximus is very caring and concerned about his people and he does not shy away from making this known to higher authorities. He shows this trait when he directly explodes in front of the Cesar that he has lost a lot of his men and the battles should not go wasted.

Maximus as a character is very straightforward and sees life only in Black or White. He does not believe in being diplomatic and fails to use his discretion in certain situations. A strong moment in the film is when Marcus Aurelius is killed and Maximus simply walks out of the room denying the offer given by Commodus to serve him. As the leader of a pack of Gladiators, he binds them together and ensures that everyone on the field stays together and fights in unison. He is a leader who believes in earning respect rather than commanding it.

Finally, in the modern day concept, Maximus possessed a perfect blend of technical as well as soft skills as he guided his people fearlessly and with a lot of conviction.


The respect that the Cesar commands is very obvious right from the start when he goes out into the battle field and is willing to over see the activities his old age and ill health not withstanding. Marcus is seen as an inspirational leader and a philosopher by all his people, most of all Maximus. It can be inferred that Marcus Aurelius was a man who wanted to build an empire for the people and has progressed through different stages of leadership. He shows immense trust and faith in his army general Maximus to carry the baton of leadership forward. This is done at the expense of over riding his own son which shows that he has the interest of his empire more than personal aspects.


Proximo is introduced as the mean, cut and dry slave owner whose only business is to entertain people by using his slaves in barbaric fights. Coming from the same line of work, he realises what it takes to drive people to be successful in the fights and is constantly giving his men inspirational talks. Proximo’s character in the movie progresses from being a directive figure to a fully supporting one.

Proximo’s journey as a leader begins when he directs all his slaves and tells them how to fight to survive. Then, as the men enter the Colosseum, he guides them by telling them about the mentality of the audience and constantly encourages them. Finally, he is seen to be a supportive figure for Maximus by going to the extent of sacrificing his own life in order to ensure that the empire could be saved.


Commodus as a personality does not have the usual traits of a people’s leader. He obtains leadership forcibly by killing his father. He believes in the authoritarian style of leadership and does not show any signs of being free reining or participative. While most of his leadership ideas are questionable, a point in which he is extremely strong is that he knows how to be manipulative with his people and get things moving. Finally, his desire to prove to his people that he is a courageous leader becomes his reason for downfall when he gets killed by Maximus.



Given below are certain points that we believe have had an impact on all of us.

1. “Stay with Me” yells Maximus which tells us what it takes to be a inspirational leader who has no problem placing himself before the team. Maximus, is a leader who leads by example and that is precisely why he earns the respect of his people. Similarly, in an organization,

2. “Cesar, there’s no one left to fight” says Maximus to which the Emperor replies “O Maximus, there’s always someone left to fight”. The is an extremely strong statement which can be related to modern day times where organisations on reaching the pinnacle of success should not become complacent as there will always be someone to over throw you.

3. The character of Lucilla is also an important one from a personal learning point of view. She is shown to be an extremely independent and resilient character despite being in a male dominated era. Even though she isn’t allowed to lead from the front, she has great political acumen that she constantly exhibits. In modern times as well, women are seen to out perform men in a lot of activities and yet can’t break through the glass ceiling that prevents them from reaching the top of an organisation.

4. The quality of seeing the larger picture in the interest of an organisation is what makes successful leaders. Marcus Aurelius & Lucilla both demonstrate this quality effectively by trusting an army general over a family member.

5. Strategy formulation and execution is another learning that we take from this movie. The first war against the German barbarians is won due to a great strategy formulation and direction from the leader as well as a flawless execution by the team members. In an organization, both these aspects assume paramount importance and this is what leads to the attainment of an organization’s goals.

6. Team spirit is the back bone of the success that Maximus and his Gladiators achieve in the various fights. A group of people are most successful when they work together as a team.

7. For any team to be successful, inter personal relationship are important and the team has to stick together keeping personal grudges aside. Even though Hagen is from Germania, he does not hold grudges against Maximus for warring against his country. He even is willing to sacrifice his life in order to make sure that the leader and the goal of the team are not affected.

8. Respect cannot be demanded, it can only be earned. The leadership styles of Maximus and Commodus are juxtaposed in the movie to prove this point. Maximus earns his respect by leading the way in every situation. Commodus on the other hand, shies away from challenging situations and only likes to give orders. This only leads to him being chided by everyone.

9. Taking the right decision at the right time is of utmost importance for any organisation to succeed. Maximus could have killed Commodus in their very first encounter in front of the whole crowd but decides to wait for the right moment and then make his killing move.

10. Ethics and Integrity are important virtues that Maximus has. He believes in abiding by the rules and regulations and has a strong set of principles that he likes following. He is unable to deal with immoral and unethical people and refuses to acknowledge them as can be seen in his interactions with Commodus. Successful modern day organisations have a very strong sense of ethics and righteousness.


1. – External Review Section for different views given on each character and the movie on the whole

2. – to refer to certain styles of leadership

3. Class Slides to refer to the Situational Leadership model

4. Organisational Behaviour by Stephen Robbins & Timothy Judge

5. Johari Window analysis reference from

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