What kids learn about leaders, leadership from Transformers

  • IANS, New York
  • Updated: May 15, 2015 17:41 IST

Fantasy-based stories, in particular the popular 1980s cartoon series of The Transformers, can shape children's perceptions of what behaviours are associated with effective leadership, says a new research.

"We believe that Transformers presents three key lessons about leadership," said study co-author Seth Spain, assistant professor of organizational behaviour at Binghamton University in the US.

According to Spain, one of these lessons, is that flatter groups are more successful -- sharing power is more valuable than trying to use power for the selfish benefit of oneself.

The other lessons that the cartoon series tells is that in general, leaders tend to be exceptional people; and finally, intelligence (cognitive ability and skill) is a particularly important attribute for a leader to have.

These messages align well with the current academic literature about what kinds of individuals emerge as leaders and what it takes to be effective as a leader, the researchers noted.

The Transformers started in 1984 with a toy line of transforming factions of alien robots fighting a civil war that spread to Earth -- the "good" Autobots, seeking peace, and the "bad" Decepticons, vying for galactic domination.

The franchise has grown to include animation, comic books, videogames and films, grossing more than $1 billion.

"'The Transformers' characters and the stories told in the cartoon are a modern example of traditional folklore as a means of educating individuals about leadership," University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Peter Harms, who co-authored the research, pointed out.

For the project, Spain and Harms rated the leadership skills of more than 120 characters featured in the first two years of The Transformers cartoon (1984-1985) and the 1986 film The Transformers: The Movie.

The study will roll out in Emerald Group Publishing's book series, Monographs in Leadership and Management The title of the volume is "Leadership Lessons from Compelling Contexts". It is scheduled for release in 2016.

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