Abstract of the Movie:

The film Saving Private Ryan starts with the show of intensity of war, by showing the “calm before the storm” and then the intense battle scene in Omaha beach starts the movie plot and then it follows up to show the horrors of war that come attached to it. The film focuses on the invasion of Normandy and then entails immediate aftermath. The US Army Chief of Staff decides that Private First-Class James Ryan (Matt Damon), needs to be saved. Even though the news of the death Ryan’s 3 brothers had to be delivered via telegram to his mother, the chief of staff believes that the safe return James Ryan was a necessity. He then assigns the rescue mission to Captain John. H. Miller and Miller lead the team comprising of 8 people in searching Ryan. The story takes its form then one surrounding Miller and his team.

Now watching this movie, one could not resist talking about the leadership qualities Captain Miller shows and the various stages the team courses through before becoming a “Performing Team”. So, in this essay, I would delve into the intricacies of the movie as well as various factors that could be related to lectures taught by the professor in class.

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Movie: Saving Private Ryan; Audience Rating: R; Released: 1998; Genre: Action/Drama/War; Runtime: 169 minutes; Distributed by DreamWorks Productions





This Essay primarily focuses on the aforementioned Movie and would analyze characters and relate them to academic materials taught by the professor. Even though according to Hofstede’s Dimension of Culture the USA has a low score for Power distance, the military organizational culture portrayed has a comparatively High-Power Distance. Which thereby means the culture accepts inequality of power. The protagonist is given the mission of saving Private James Ryan, which even though the protagonist feels is unfair, doesn’t disobey. Now let’s focus on the protagonist of the film, who is a Captain within the US Army and the movie focus on explaining about the emotions, the atrocities and also the leadership skills of Captain John. H. Miller, played by Tom Hanks. This essay will focus on different points/scenes where Captain Miller showed Leadership qualities and unlike classic military theme movies, this movie showcases the characters in detail and enlightens about different aspects of Team Development too, which will also be explained later on in detail.

The Autocratic Leadership style that is predominant in military is not followed by Miller, which attracts attention towards the movie, Miller seemed to more of a mix of Autocratic and Democratic leadership style. Within the movie, Technical sergeant Mike Horvath who was like a right-hand man to Miller was equally impressive. Horvath and Reiben will also be highlighted in order to explain about some follower characteristics. While talking about Miller Horvath and Reiben, a scene could be inferred where an altercation occurs in between the team members. Miller breaks the fight between Horvath and Reiben when Reiben attempts to leave the men because he feels the mission was not worth risking his life. Miller asks “What’s the pool on me up to right now?  what is it up to? 300 dollars, right?… I am a School teacher”

Miller, being an individual who tends to be secretive about his private life, suddenly explains his backstory that he is a School Teacher and he teaches English composition in Pennsylvania and how he misses his wife dearly. He then continues the talk to say that finishing this mission might give him a chance to return to her again. What we could infer is that he could calm an extremely heated situation and refocus the men on the mission. This shows how influential Miller was within the team and the respect he had from the team. Within the same scene, he honestly admits to the team that he has no interest in the mission and how Ryan is just another stranger in his life, his only motivation for continuing the mission is a chance to get back to his family. While he continues to say this, his men can relate and appreciate his honesty and thereby the realization of even the captain being the part of the same hellhole reunites the team. (Saving Private Ryan-That’s My Mission, 2011)

So, in the following pages detailed analysis of the movie and characters regarding various facets of the lecture will be entailed








Leadership Qualities

Showing weakness is not always detrimental: Throughout the movie, we get to see Captain Miller more than anyone else and we could observe one fact that he was not afraid to show his weakness in front of his team, instead of breaking the team it inspired his team to persevere. Miller’s hand keeps shaking and Horvath and other Teammates express their concerns to him in different scenes, but Miller chucks it off and moves forward. This is something truly worth highlighting. Contrary to the popular belief that a leader should only portray strength and confidence, here the protagonist’s weakness is not something frowned upon but instead acts as an inspiring quality.

Being Assertive at the right time: This is something that is essential for a leader. Being assertive at the right times can be very influential as well as critical. During the initial part of the movie, paralyzed with fear on the beach at Omaha, his men are hesitating to move forward, but then Miller takes command of the situation. He is seen leading his troops through Dog One to take out the machine gun nest, which feels like an insurmountable hurdle initially that was pinning down the rest of the GIs. Here we could also hypothesize that Miller overcomes his own fear and forces himself to overcome his fears to be decisive and assertive, which highlights the point that being assertive at the right moment can always be beneficial for the team. In this scene quick analysis of the unfolding situation by Captain Miller followed by quick decision helps them overcome the situation. As professor had discussed in class that effective managers tend to combine reflective thinking and practical doing in collaborative ways to achieve success. Although it’s a team effort, Miller’s delegation skills as well as organizational skills is what needs highlight, and this is what we could assume lead to success.

Being a man of few words: Although this may be misunderstood, what is meant to be said is that, revealing only what is critical or vital based on situational perspective leads to favorable results. Captain miller is an enigma to his teammates and even the long-time teammate Horvath admits about not knowing about Millers past and there seems to be bet of 300 USD in the pool within team members as to who could rightly guess Millers past. The past which Miller reveals after Wade’s death which devastates the team, shows that sharing information during critical time can have a huge impact. He could have given up his past before too, when Technician Fifth Grade Timothy E. Upham asks him regarding it. But the reveal of the information during that critical phase of the team creates a greater impact.

Never gripe/ complain about your superiors to your team: When the team of 8 gets assigned with saving one Private James Ryan. None of the teammates are convinced about the worth and objective of the mission. Why waste/sacrifice an entire team for the sake of one paratrooper? When his subordinates gripe about the situation, Miller doesn’t complain/gripe and he explains: “I don’t gripe to you Reiben. I’m a Captain,” is what he says and continues to say that: “There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on and so on.” (Saving Private Ryan-Gripe, 2010)  This clip from the film also shows Captain explaining to Reiben how he would Gripe in a dialogue filled with sarcasm and yet without being disrespectful:

“I’d say this is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir, worthy of my best efforts, sir. Moreover… I feel heartfelt sorrow for the mother of Private James Ryan and am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men — especially you Reiben — to ease her suffering.” When Miller reveals his honest opinion on the topic without polishing it off as just a command, easing the tense atmosphere a bit. But parallelly while doing so, he does it without undermining his superiors in front of his team. Here, we get to see the smartness and quick wit of Miller teaching some valuable lessons to his team within a few sentences, which makes him a praiseworthy leader role.

This is also valid in a realistic scenario, where the middle manager should refrain from complaining about his superior to his team, as that would mean undermining authority and may cause hinderance to smooth functioning of the teams towards achievement of objectives. For example, when Professor conducted a simulation of the functioning of the firm, it was observed that decisive managers with less complains being voiced tended to perform much faster and better compared to teams with middle managers that openly voiced complains in front of subordinates towards superior. Being one in Top management in one simulation and the bottom on another simulation gave a clear picture of the effect of middle managers within the team performance and how the managers that talked less and worked more had their teams perform better.

Being Honest and Humble: Being honest and humble is another trait needed for a leader. A leader will be willing to accept that he is wrong if he makes a mistake. This is very relevant within business scenarios as your team members tend to notice minute things, sometimes a lie can destroy the integrity and functioning of the team. Being Humble helps in introspection as well as more input from team members. Leaders who tend to be egoistic and egotistic tend to be shunned out or alienated in team activities. The team won’t have moral attachment or empathetical bond with the leader.

Acceptance of mistakes made: When Miller was getting desperate to find his Private Ryan in order fulfill his mission, he fails to clarify /question the person they meet if he was the same Private Ryan they were searching, which unsurprisingly turns the conversation into a disaster, as the Ryan they met is made to beleive that his school-age brothers have died. It was a blunder and caused an awkward situation. On understanding that he had made a mistake, Miller admits his blunder. What could be inferred is that, mistakes happen to everyone be it an experienced individual or thoughtful leader. But acceptance of one’s own mistakes or owning your mistake evolves you to a be person and a better leader.

Being Knowledgeable: This is an important trait needed for being a leader. Being resourceful and knowledgeable within the field you work earns you respect as well as faith. Captain Miller has the respect and faith of his team precisely because he is knowledgeable and experienced in the field. It is also evident when Miller talks of making “sticky bombs” with available materials to his team. (Saving Private Ryan – Sticky Bomb, 2011)

Being Committed to the Goals and Objective: This is also a valuable trait a leader has to possess. It is very in the film shown by Miller, no matter what hurdles he met, he was fully committed to the mission and was giving his best to achieve goal. While talking about commitment, Private James Ryan also needs to be mentioned, even though the Chief of Staff had given the chance for him to return home, he denies going with Miller and his team. He argues that the bridge needs defending, and the remaining members of his old team are like his Family and his brothers. So, he will not abandon his post, friends or his mission and travel back with Captain Miller. This inspires even Miller and his Team to stick on and help the old team of Private James Ryan to defend the bridge.

Team and its phases of evolution:

The Team initially functions like a “Group” that has a high level of dilemma and varying viewpoints during and then transforms into a “Team” after going through phases of team development resulting in a team with unified mindset and that in turn results in performing. Even though the aim of the team was to safely bring back Private James Ryan, they decide to stay back and fight/ defend until the reinforcements arrive. We may appreciate the decision on a moral standpoint about the self-sacrifice nature of the Team, but if they had focused on achieving just the objective, maybe there wouldn’t have been loss of lives within the Team. But yes, the sacrifices the team did seem to still pay off, as their final objective of bringing back Private Ryan home safely was accomplished and they were able to defend the bridge. The team tends to follow more of “Commitment model” rather than the “Command and Control” model which usually military units follow. Which may also be why the movie was influential and eye-catching. Now to further analyse the movie to explain the stages of Team Development.

Forming: This stage is clear within the film from the time Captain Miller is assigned the task to save Private Ryan. The members within the team ask a lot of questions to Captain. The Captain must also prove the worthiness of the mission to his squadron. Team members try to know each other and also have their own point of views.

Storming: This stage typically happens during the time when they lose wade at Sniper scene, when Horvath and Reiben get into altercation and there is questioning of authority. It was not clear for the men as to why they were trying to save a private that didn’t deserve more chance than they did to go back home. (Saving Private Ryan-That’s My Mission, 2011)

During this phase, the team is mourning the two people they lost to the mission and also having dilemma as to what worth this mission held. Reiben is seen openly protesting the mission objective and had almost left the team before Horvath pulls a gun on him. Even after the narration of Captain’s story, there persists a shadow of doubt regarding the worth of the mission; which we could observe, when they plan to defend the bridge and Reiben gives long glances towards Ryan. But Their loyalty to Captain a

Norming: After the Captain’s speech the Team understands that it’s not just their personal opinion but even the captain is facing the same things. The team as a whole band and stand together. Even though the team as whole doubt the worthiness of the mission, they still believe in their captain and decide to finish their objective as soon as possible without losing any more lives. Everyone starts sticking together and have each other’s back no matter what the cost.

Performing: This stage is clear in the movie when the team decides to defend the bridge till the reinforcement arrives. The disagreements that arise are resolved quickly. The team decides to overachieve their goal by not just saving Private Ryan but also try to defend the bridge till reinforcements arrive. They look out for each other and there is a high degree of interdependence to defend the bridge and also save Ryan.

At the end of the movie, though most of the team members including Captain dies, the Team was able to perform wonderfully by attaining their goals of defending the bridge and saving Private Ryan.

MBTI Type of Captain Miller

While we focus on the movie based on lectures and discussions held in class, from personal interests on specific topics, I would like to describe of the MBTI type probably Miller was and would like to give certain movie related events to support my claim.

Introverted Sensing (Si): His commitment and attention to details is clear within the film. Being comfortable in using established tactics is something Miller seems to opt for.  For the greater good, as Miller seem to believe, he enjoys working within his team, instead upsetting them. Miller seems to be person who gets content in working steady and reliable pace.

Extroverted Thinking (Te): Figuring out rational ways to tackle a problem as well as being good in formulating good plans to execute highlights this part of Miller. Also, success being measured in tangible outcomes and prioritizing on getting the job done. Another notable point is that most of the decisions are not influenced / based on emotion, which is general trait for feeler types. His respect for military law is evident while he explains about griping to others and when he lets the German soldier walk off, even though the soldier was partly responsible for death of the medic Wade. He abided to the military law instead of letting his emotions control his decisions.

Introverted Feeling (Fi): When Wade dies, Miller doesn’t openly express his emotion regarding the loss among his team members. Instead he is seen going to a corner and shedding tear alone. High level of loyalty to his team and country coupled with high moral values summarize miller.He is willing to even sacrifice his life for protecting them.

Extroverted Intuition (Ne): When Miller starts laughing in the church while resting and he starts discussing with Horvath about worth of the mission. He is seen to philosophize the loss of lives resulting in saving of much more lives. The worth being equated to saving two or three times the number of soldiers who lost their lives under his command. He highlights the number as 95 good men he lost under his command. He questions the worth of current mission while talking these things with Horvath.

In short, Captain Miller based would an ISTJ type within the MBTI types.

Character Analysis and Follower Characteristics

Captain John H. Miller: He shows a mix of Conformists and Exemplary Follower characteristics. Even though unconvinced about the worth of the mission, captain doesn’t voice his thoughts and agrees to it. He does critical thinking at times, yet doesn’t go against orders. 

Technical sergeant Mike Horvath: He is a mix of Effective Follower and Sheep. He pulls a gun on Reiben in the scene without much forethought. Also, when Horvath sees the captain’s hand shivering, he openly expresses his concern over the Captains wellbeing. The faith Horvath has upon the captain, though as he admits of not knowing the past life of the captain is something worth mentioning. Similarly, with respect to Horvath, we could see the faith and respect he shows towards the captain. forethought and blocks the path of Reiben. We may also infer that Horvath was good support for Miller and an essential within the Team.

Private First-Class Richard Reiben: Survivor

Not until the end, Reiben seemed to conform to group goals. He seems to affect the performance of team initially regarding the goal. He doesn’t fit any category perfectly, but, his open disoideince as well as questioning without solutions (griping scene) makes one believe that he can be categorized as a survivor.


Finally, to conclude the essay, while analyzing the movie based on what we learnt. It was beneficial and interesting. Various details which run over the head were seen and also, analyses of characters gave a lot of knowledge as to how a Leader can be and also how a team can perform better than what is expected. 


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