In fact, from the movies beginning, Bells actions are both unethical and obnoxious. Bell uses his leadership skills to convince other boys to join him in his delinquency, offering them contraband materials and taking them on against-the-rules outings. Regardless of these actions, however, Bells two largest unethical acts during the movie are the incidences in which he cheats. It is these incidences that suggest Bell has not learned from his unethical mistakes, while Hundert has. In fact, throughout the movie Hundert feels sorry for his unethical actions, and he does his best to repair them. He talks about them with other faculty, confronts Bell about his choices, and at the end of the movie apologizes to the boy who was knocked out of the competition by his actions. Bell, on the other hand, simply cheats again in order to obtain another position of power. In both their motivations and their reactions to unethical behavior, therefore, Hundert and Bell are radically different. While Hundert commits immoral acts in order to boost a young boys confidence and later makes reparations for those acts, Bell commits unethical acts in order to boost his own position of power and admits that he does not feel sorry for what he has done. Thus, while both Hundert and Bell possess qualities of leadership, only Hundert possesses a positive attitude toward ethics.
Set against the backdrop of some of the greatest leaders in history, the emperors of Rome, Hoffmans film, the Emperors Club, allows viewers to understand universal truths about leadership and ethics through the coming of age of a class full of boys under the leadership of their brilliant professor. While each of the boys must face decisions regarding leadership and ethics throughout the film — they are offered the choice to look at pornography, travel off the grounds, and claim their mistakes and pranks — the foils of Sedgewick Bell and Mr. Hundert best encompass the films theme regarding leadership and ethics. While both Bell and Hundert possess many characteristics of leaders, their leadership takes on very different roles. Hundert leads in order to lead his class to success; he shoots for a degree of leadership effectiveness. This can be observed by his teachings and his actions.
Hundert states that one can only be remembered by history if one uses their leadership qualities to give something to the world. When one does not use their power and leadership qualities to give back, Hundert suggests that they are forgotten. By teaching the students this concept, Hundert not only increases their drive to be successful, but he also increases their drive to be ethical. Furthermore, Hunderts teachings can be witnessed in his own life. Although he is not always successful, especially at earning the new headmaster position, Hundert has a great deal of achievement motivation; he is excited about his accomplishments because he has achieved them. Though he does become discouraged, his decision to return to the classroom is an excellent example of this fact and suggests that he has a strong internal locus of control. His students view him with an expertise approach, and see him as a transformational leader.
Bell, on the other hand, uses his leadership skills simply to increase his number of followers and establish power for himself. The young man fails to promote leadership effectiveness because his leadership simply results in a greater number of followers in his cult of personality. He does not use the ethical leadership offered by Mr. Hundert to hone his cognitive factors, but instead chooses to cheat. He does not possess emotional intelligence, having little regard for others, and has an external locus of control, becoming affected by outside events instead of controlling his own reactions. Thus, while both men exercise leadership qualities, they are rather different in terms of ethics. Although the end of the movie suggests that others do not observe Bells ethical shortcomings, and continue to follow him, it is suggested that all the power he derives will pale in comparison to Mr. Hunderts, who has used those qualities of leadership to promote ethical ideas to a new generation. When the dean welcomes the incoming class with the words, “the end depends upon the beginning,” he suggests this truth — Bells actions immoral actions as an adolescent influences the rest of his life, establishing him as a power-hungry leader who will not.