“12 Angry Men” Leadership and Power Assignment Film Analysis

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When discussing 12 Angry Men, there are many subjects that can be examined and analyzed. While it doesn’t take place in an office, it is a useful movie to view to break down several areas in leadership and development. The lessons in the movie are just as relevant today as they were back in the 1950s when the movie was made. The script could be used as a helpful guide on social influence and recognizing influence in those who seemingly do not have power. Last week, the focus of the assignment was to look back on the film and analyze the group development and roles of the jurors. This week, the focus is being placed on the leadership and examples of those 12 men. However, there are two sources of power that some of the jurors possessed; the power of expertise and referent power.

What is Personal Power?

Many people believe that power comes from inside out. They claim that power is the ability of each person to lead and encourage others. Others assume that power comes from outside in. They think power is given to an individual by others. They see power as a rank or status, along with possessing influence and authority, and an idea that power is having rule over others. True power is established within people merely by the decisions they make, the views they have, and their actions. According to Robbins and Judge, there are two groupings of power, formal and personal (2018, p. 209). Formal power is what most people consider when they hear the word power. It is based on a person’s rank or status within an organization or group of people. Then there is personal power. Personal power is a type of influence and agency a person has over their supporters. It is an essential leadership capability that one needs to acquire before they can lead other people. To break it down even further, there are two types of personal power, expert and referent. The next section will discuss each type of power, and which jurors possessed them.

Expert Power

Expert power derives from a person’s personal knowledge or experiences. It is a type of power that is centered on the belief of employees that their manager holds a high degree of knowledge that they do not own (Denis, 2017). In 12 Angry Men, there were two jurors that exhibited expert power. Juror number 5, the man who grew up in the poor Jewish neighborhood had knowledge of how to use a switchblade. He explained that if the Kid had stabbed his father, he wouldn’t have come from overhead, but he would have jammed the knife upwards because of how it was made (Lumet, 2014). Likewise, Juror number 8 also had expert power. Because he was an architect, he was able to view the floorplans of the building that the old man lived in who claimed he witnessed the murder. These two men were able to use their personal knowledge and experience to change the minds of some of the jurors. These two men were able to use the asset of their expert power to confidently prove to the others that the Kid could not have killed his father the way that they initially thought it occurred.

Referent Power

Referent power comes from others trusting what their leader does and respecting them for how they handle situations. This type of power is usually seen in charismatic people who can arouse a passion follow them due to their captivating disposition. People are willing to follow and adhere to that person’s desires because of the manner in which they manage and regard others. The film had one leader with a referent power, and that was Fonda’s character, Juror number 8. One incident that showed his referent power was when Juror number 9 had changed his vote to not guilty to stand with Juror number 8 in making sure the facts were carefully weighed and considered before putting an innocent person to death. He made it known that the boy probably was guilty, but he was willing to look at all of the evidence carefully because Juror number 8 insisted on this. He eventually went on to gain the following of all of the jurors to consider the evidence and the fact that there was reasonable doubt and not enough evidence to convict the young man.

Which Power is More Important?

Between formal and personal power, it is believed that personal power is a bigger motivator to most, and more important to people in terms of following someone. However, when it comes to which type of personal power is more significant, this is a little more complex. Instead of one being more important than the other, it could be said that they have an intermingled relationship. While Juror 8 possessed both expert and referent power, his way of getting the other jurors to come around due to them establishing trust in him, his being an architect (expertise) helped them to see his perspective from the old man possibly not being able to get to the door in the amount of time stated.

Not only did both powers work together in this instance, they could also work in other settings. For instance, in a study conducted by Deborah Salem, Thomas Reischl, Fiona Gallagher, and Katie Randall, they examined the mutual help group Schizophrenics Anonymous, and determined that many schizophrenic patients that attended the group responded better when they were able to gain the trust of someone that considered them and their feelings along with them having personal knowledge of the condition (Salem, Reischl, Gallagher, & Randall, 2000).


When it comes to having power, formal power is often recognized, but one does not need to be in a leadership role in order to possess power. As shown in the film, the foreman was supposed to be the leader in the jury, but it was Fonda’s character that gained the following because he commanded the respect of his peers. It is those with personal power who have the ability to lead effectively. In fact, those with referent power often gain more respect than those in higher roles because they are the ones that are in the trenches with their supporters. They motivate others to be more engaged in work, and to be more committed to achieving the goals of the business. Having both expert and referent powers is excellent for a person looking to lead, or simply looking to make a difference. Juror number 8 didn’t seek to become the leader of the group, he simply wanted to make sure that a possibly innocent man wasn’t sentenced to death because the jurors didn’t do their due diligence. He wasn’t the formal leader, but his actions caused the others to follow him.


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“12 Angry Men” Leadership and Power Assignment Film Analysis. (2020, Sep 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/12-angry-men-leadership-and-power-assignment/



How does 12 Angry Men show leadership?
12 Angry Men shows leadership through the character of Juror 8, who demonstrates the importance of critical thinking, open-mindedness, and the ability to persuade others through thoughtful argumentation. The film also highlights the dangers of groupthink and the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of opposition.
What does the 12 Angry Men teach us?
The movie, 12 Angry Men, teaches us the importance of critical thinking and how one person can make a difference.
What kind of leadership is in 12 Angry Men?
The leadership in 12 Angry Men is democratic. Every man has a say in the verdict and they vote based on the evidence.
Who is the formal leader in 12 Angry Men?
Oregon had the highest rate of homelessness in the United States in 2021, followed by New York and California.
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