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  • G. Zhou

Leadership in Ender's Game

Updated: Dec 25, 2022

By G. Zhou
Posted on November 28, 2022
Cover Image Title: The Stepping Stones
Cover Image by: Alice
Classification: Photography
Year: 2022

Chunks of debris, floating weightlessly through pitch-black space that was illuminated with a blindingly white flash only moments ago; that was all that was left of an entire planet after Ender Wiggin, a mere teenager, gave the order for complete annihilation. Set generations into the future, in the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Earth is locked in a war with a sentient alien race. Ender Wiggin, an extraordinarily intelligent six-year-old, is one of the kids chosen to enter Battle School, a program started by the military to train future generals; drilled every day, trained in combat, and forced to attend rigorous classes on military strategies, only the sharpest and most determined make it through. Students are given battle simulations to hone their abilities (almost as if they were playing a game), and Ender’s smarts immediately gather recognition. With all the attention on him, for better or worse, Ender quickly begins to climb in the rankings and develops a reputation for being the most talented child the military has ever seen. Ender struggles with the pressures and expectations of the people around him and even himself. Eventually, Ender becomes the most valuable piece in the ‘game’ of war, in one final simulation, he defeats the aliens by demolishing their home planet and simultaneously destroying his own army. Shockingly, the officers spectating begin to rejoice, and it is soon revealed that no simulation had occurred; Ender had defeated the enemy without even knowing it. When the realization that he has extinguished an entire race dawns upon him, Ender must deal with the heavy burden that it was his fault. During his years of training for the final battle, Ender becomes an astounding leader to the people around him. Orson Scott Card truly shows what it takes to be a leader through Ender’s determination, responsibility, and ability to build relationships.

To begin, throughout the time he spent in Battle and Command School, Ender exhibited leadership by always remaining persistent and putting forth his best effort to resolve his own problems. As a direct result of being singled out by teachers and officials for praise and adulation, Ender gathered a collection of enemies as quickly as he gathered a collection of victories. Time after time, Ender was picked on because of his skills, and even got caught in several physical altercations. However, he never let the people around him ‘win’ and continued to do his very best during classes and battles. After getting beaten by one of his fellow soldiers, Ender reminded himself, “He didn’t plan to get vengeance on Bonzo for hitting him. But he did intend that no one would be able to do that to him again” (Card 94). Thus, even though Ender was in physical danger, he was determined not to be suppressed and fought even harder to rise above the others. Not only did Ender’s perseverance help him develop inner strength, but it also made him a role model that many looked to for guidance. This quality demonstrates powerful character and plays a key role in why Ender was able to become one of the most influential leaders of all time.

Furthermore, Ender takes full responsibility for his own mistakes and makes sure to try and correct his wrongdoings. Although Ender is undoubtedly a tactical genius, he still makes a few human errors. Instead of shying away from his faults, Ender accepts the consequences of his actions. For instance, after discovering that he unknowingly destroyed an entire alien race, Ender tried his best to make amends by finding a new location for another possible alien colony. At the very end of the book, the author recounts, “And always Ender carried with him a dry white cocoon, looking for the world where the hive-queen could awaken and thrive in peace” (Card 253). Clearly, Ender displays maturity by handling the problem and making a plan to combat the difficulty. In this case, he felt guilty for the death of an entire race (save the queen) and held himself accountable although the war was finished. When others around him notice the way that Ender conducts himself, he becomes a model for exemplary behavior; consequently, more and more people begin to look up to him as a leader.

In addition, Ender put an emphasis on building strong relationships with his peers in Battle and Command School, which showed he valued everyone and helped develop a stronger connection between the army. While Ender was commander, there were unquestionable conflicts between the boys under his instruction. Though Ender could have easily overlooked his soldiers and simply focused on furthering his own knowledge of strategy, he chose to get to know people better. Almost all of Ender’s friends ended up fighting with him during the last battle, and the relationships that were built produced a better understanding of each other. This, in turn, gives way to a close-knit group that won the final victory of the war. As Ender’s squadron leaders are revealed to him, Card writes, “And Petra, and Dink; Crazy Tom, Shen, Hot Soup, Fly Molo, Carn Carby, all the best students Ender had fought with or fought against, everyone that Ender had trusted in Battle School'' (Card 218). Ender’s final team consisted of only people that he had worked closely with - it was no coincidence. The relationships he had established contributed to the success Ender experienced as a commander. Without the familiarity between him and all of his peers, the collaboration inside the squadron would have been stunted, and Ender’s plan may not have been carried out to its full potential. Evidently, the bonds that Ender spent time solidifying assisted him in his duty as leader of the army, and were integral to the war’s victory.

To conclude, Orson Scott Card conveyed leadership in Ender through his never-ending perseverance, his responsibility, and his value of friendships and connections. Faced with dozens of harsh obstacles completely new to him, Ender’s cleverness and perseverance end up making him shine like a diamond in the rough. Ender Wiggin displays all the key characteristics of a natural-born leader; empathetic enough not to be bloodthirsty, but distant enough to do what has to be done. Although Ender was pushed almost to his breaking point, his time spent with the military changed him forever and made his name go down in history as the savior of humankind. Ender’s internal struggles with his moral compass echo the obstacles that leaders today must face. Whilst the world may not be faced with an alien race as of right now, the novel Ender’s Game brings into question what is right and what is wrong.

* The End *

[Writing Editor: Catherine]


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