[May 28, 2014] If you want to learn lessons in leadership, don’t watch a movie. That has always been my advice to young leaders. In other words, leadership is learned from relevant, practical experience, not from the comfort of your sofa, observing it from afar. I will admit however, there are a few gems of leadership buried elsewhere and one place is in a few movies.
Yes, you can learn leadership lessons from a movie, but you are more likely to learn the wrong lesson than not. This is where the danger is in learning anything from a movie; real life is where the lessons are to be found.
One movie that I did get a lesson from was Twelve O’clock High, starring Gregory Peck as Brigadier General Frank Savage. The movie is very good on several levels: it won two academy awards and was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It also preserves a few leadership lessons from WWII.
What leadership lessons can we learn from the movie? There are several leader lessons that apply to all leaders and reinforce the information found here in theLeaderMaker.com. What I like about this movie is the entertainment value in the delivery of those messages and lessons.
1. Vision: create a strategy and how to achieve it. Ensure the vision is clear, concise, and the right one. Articulate the vision often and with passion.
2. Patience: knowing the right strategy is well and good, but staying the course with the mission in mind will help ensure those following to see the end-state. Gregory Peck nearly gave up at the end, but persisted and won the day with his men.
3. Lead by Example: this one is an old leader principle and highlighted throughout the movie. Gregory Peck flies the most dangerous bomber missions with his crews against Nazi Germany early in the war when the casualty rates were very high.
4. Create and Maintain High Standards: establish standards, train people on the standards, regularly articulate those standards, and expect workers to reach this high level. Reward them and provide incentives for excellence.
5. Communicate: ensure you are letting your workers know what you want and how to get there but don’t forget that communication is two-ways. Ensure you are getting feedback and be adaptive to improve yourself as the leader.
Yes, I will admit now that there are some movies that can help teach us leadership lessons. Beware however of the false and misleading leader lessons from movies.
Twelve O’clock High is a great movie and well worth watching again.
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