Guest Post: Meghann Cefaratti on Leadership in The Hunger Games


Two common leadership styles studied are transactional and transformational leadership. A transactional leadership style focuses on using rewards and punishments to support maintenance of the status quo and is largely reactive in nature. Transformational leadership focuses on inspiring growth and change in organizations through encouraging members to be creative (See Northouse, 2010, chapter 9 for a discussion of transformational and transactional leaders). The Hunger Games provides a fun backdrop to discuss different leadership styles.

While I was reading the Hunger Games series, I understood President Snow better when I thought of him as a transactional leader. Transactional leaders promote compliance of their followers through rewards and punishments. I still didn’t like him, but I understood his character better. I made a list of the qualities that President Snow exhibited that I think make him an example of a transactional leader. Let’s consider:

  • The winning tribute moved into Victor’s Village (this was supposed to be a reward!).
  • He punished individuals for disobedience or even the semblance of rebellion (think the gentleman in the crowd who whistled – Catching Fire).
  • Transactional leaders are not looking to change the future – rather to keep things the same – President Snow was desperately trying to quell the rebellion and maintain the current system of rule.
  • Transactional leaders focus on faults and deviations – President Snow handed out more punishments than rewards.
  • Transactional leaders have a reactive leadership style – President Snow sent in troops in reaction to rebellious behavior, confronted Katniss (creepy scene in the office at her home in Victor’s Village) and threatened her with punishment if she did not act in a manner that was supportive of the Capital in the quarter-quell games.Food for thought: Because transactional leaders are effective in crisis situations, could we argue that he is the right man for the job if the rebellion is to be quelled?

Although Katniss is the main character, I don’t think that she is a leader. Katniss inspired people but she did not lead them. She was the symbol of the rebellion. Katniss was the Mockingjay (with the help of Cinna and some fabulous red carpet fashion), but she did not lead the rebellion. She really wasn’t in on the planning at all. Dr. Anita Blanchard at UNC Charlotte had a fun post about Katniss and she maintained that Katniss was not a transformational leader. Do you agree with Dr. Blanchard? I think she has some great points! Some leaders serve as the symbols of their organizations in addition to their leadership role (I am thinking of Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway here), but Katniss is not one of them. So then, who is the leader of the rebellion?

If we take District 13 into consideration as a group of leaders, then they appear, as a group, to be transformational leaders. Consider District 13’s qualities of transformational leadership:

  • Transformational leadership is proactive – During the interviews before the games, District 13 leadership (you could argue it was Cinna, but he probably did not act alone) used Katniss as the Mockingjay and the symbol of the rebellion.
  • Embraced organizational change – By pushing the rebellion they worked to change the organizational culture of the districts and ultimately the Capital.
  • Transformational leaders work for more than self gain – Cinna was willing to sacrifice everything for the higher ideal of District 13 rather than the ideals of the Capital.

Food for thought: Can a group be a leader? Is District 13 a group of individuals acting as an aggregate to exhibit transformational leadership qualities? Is Haymitch the truly clever transformational leader?

Leaders are all around us. They emerge in our student groups and they are even in our pleasure reading. Have a little fun exploring leadership principles as you embark on literary adventures!

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