What is it all about?

The 100 is a surprisingly good show that happens 97 years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization. A spaceship housing what seems to be humanity’s last survivors sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth in hopes of possibly re-populating the planet.

This show is a goldmine for everything related to leadership. There are many scenes that can be used to explain leadership or people management related concepts. Moreover, it’s really thrilling and worth the watch!

What do we see in this scene?

Early in the show, 100 adolescents and young adults are sent to earth with little chance of survival. They don’t know if they’ll land without crashing and if the air is breathable. They don’t have any strategy, they were not drilled for it nor do they have a hierarchy to take decisions and everything indicates that if they survive the landing it all might end with chaos.

As it is often the case, context creates or at least awakens the potential leaders and in this scene we see two of the main protagonists argue and make a speech to rally followers. Clarke Griffin used to be a privileged, a member of the high society within the spaceship and yet she ended on earth as a delinquent. The other is Bellamy Blake, a former guard who decided to sneak and join the stranded in order to help his younger sister who was on board. Both argue about the importance of the communication wristband that each person wears and that provides information about their well-being to the spaceship. Where Clarke believes they should keep it, Bellamy prefers they earn their privacy and with it their freedom.

What do we learn from Clarke and Bellamy

Both Clarke and Bellamy are older than most of the other 100’s. They’re more experienced and possess skills, attributes and personality traits that make them stand out. However, in a situation of survival, it is important for the group’s unity that one person claim and earn the “title” of leader and the status that goes with it.
In indigenous societies, electing the leader is often done by a form of challenge. Sometimes it’s verbal and more often it is decided with a fight. The strongest is the fittest to rule or the one chosen by the gods. In a more civilized society, it is most frequently decided through a vote, and this is where democracy pops in. Is the latter better than the others? When I see how politics impacts leadership, I’m not really convinced.

In this scene, we see Bellamy gaining the upper hand for the following reasons:

  • Most of the stranded are petty criminals and low class citizens who had little resources and education on the spaceship. They had to take actions in order to survive and do not trust the upper class. This is the first reason why they trust Bellamy more as he’s one of them.
  • If we look at the 100’s sets of values, “freedom” and “security” are probably the highest in the list. Freedom means not being in touch with the adults they perceive as captors and security can be provided by someone strong, preferably a warrior and a man.
  • The moment they stranded on earth their survival instincts kicked-in; which means that intelligent people will use their brain more effectively, whereas the majority will use their physical attributes; which again supports Bellamy.
  • Bellamy seems to be more of a charismatic leader telling people what they want to hear using the right intonations, whereas Clarke sounds more of a pain they want to avoid.
  • Lastly, Clarke tries to explain the situation and speaks about the context which may be too abstract for the people, whereas Bellamy uses the opportunity to make a real speech about the people and how the can take matters into their own hands. While Clarke seems to be lecturing and condemning, Bellamy’s speech focuses on the positive.

This resulted in Clarke having the brains (engineers, scientists…) as followers and Bellamy the majority.

How far is far enough?

We’ve seen in a previous post that leading people is not about oneself, but about the others. In her speech, Clarke explain that the 100 and the rest of the crew which still are on the spaceship have to cooperate to survive, yet for Bellamy their small group is self-sufficient. This example shows that Clarke has an holistic view of the situation and considers the stakes for everyone. Bellamy on the other hand is more of a tactician looking at what’s in front of him. While a leader should have a systemic understanding of the situation, that person doesn’t have to communicate that way and should instead focus on what’s important for the audience.

And the winner is…

Looking at this scene we clearly see that Bellamy has won this first round.

  • Before the speech, he was there all the time taking notable decisions, whereas Clarke was outside the camp and had little visibility.
  • He spoke about the people with empathy and emotions rather than about the context.
  • He is part of the story and echoes authenticity
  • He invokes their past and possible future accomplishments

Bellamy made indeed a powerful speech which forced Clarke to leave and reconsider the situation.

Speech and action

A good speaker can ignite passion within the audience. It is said that a well-delivered speech is one of the most significant tools at a leader’s disposal. That being said, a good speaker with a well-prepared speech doesn’t make a half decent leader and people tend to forget it.

During the following episodes we will see that Clarke and Bellamy complement each other and that while Bellamy had the upper hand with this speech, he will slowly start following Clarke and will consider her as the real leader of the group. She may not be the most charismatic person or the best talker, but her other traits compensate for that lack.

There are many good examples of leader speeches out there, but how many of them were really great leaders who managed to bring real change and not just a good speech?

As a leader, once you manage to stir the crowd, you will also create expectations and will have to deliver. At the end of the day, the quality of a leader is not measured by the effectiveness of his speech, but by the results, he and his people, delivered. A good speech is just the start and in a next post we will discuss how to use that start effectively.

Do you have some good examples of speeches that were the start of something great?