Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cowabunga!!

My son was heavily into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they first arrived on the scene 20 odd years ago. So it was with a sense of warm nostalgia for those days when my son was very young and delightful (in the way that small boys are - though he is still wonderful now!), that I sat down to enjoy the film. I was expecting good CGI, a loose and not too complex story with some convincing acting. I was not disappointed, indeed I was thrilled! There is even a cameo performance from one of my favourite actresses: Whoopi Goldberg (who I still think would make a fantastic Dr Who).

This film is a glorious romp that does not take itself seriously: these are teenage mutant ninja turtles after all! The film bubbles with heroism, silliness, beauty (of NYC) & good baddies! The narrative is entirely predictable but enjoyable as a consequence. Go and see it with some popcorn, maybe even clutching a small figurine.


This film is all about having fun while doing some very serious and important things. Batman never laughs and Clark Kent only just manages a half smile. Do the X-Men ever have a party? Probably not: the weight of saving the world weighs heavy on most super hero shoulders.

But what this film suggests that is having fun is part of it. How many leaders do you know who can engender a sense of fun and joy? As a leader, how do you balance the serious stuff with the fun stuff? When was the last time people saw you laugh or just do something a little less of ponderous importance?

How do you make work.. fun?

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This is the fifty fifth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bread & Roses

Pride is a sumptuous and joyous film of the very highest order. It tells the true story of how a group of gay men and lesbians decided to raise money in support of striking miners in 1984 & 1985. The narrative tension pivots on the culture clash between the cosmopolitan bohemian London activists on the one hand and that of miners & their families from a traditional and small Welsh town on the other. The fusion will warm you, inspire you and delight you.

The acting, costumes and sets are top notch: evoking an authentic reminiscence of that time in British history. Bill Nighy is wonderfully understated while Dominic West quite the opposite. Meanwhile Imelda Staunton & Jessica Gunning are as solid as tweed and tins of baked beans. And the lead actor, Ben Schnetzer, is luminous. This is a must see film!



This film is peppered with profound & diverse leadership in so many places, it is difficult to know which theme to choose to highlight. Huge dollops of tenacity, humility, determination to succeed, courage, curiosity, honesty and of course pride & confidence are all on display. Another huge theme, if not the whole plot, is about finessing adversity.

This is epitomised in one part of the story where the activists are referred to as 'perverts'. They decide to own the word, turn it around and use it ironically to build their campaign. How many leaders are able to take an insult and bat it back like a cricket ball? Good leaders are not just robust, they are robustly ironic too.

Does your leadership cricket bat need any linseed oil?


And I must offer a special plug for a song which features in the film: Bread & Roses. It is sung beautifully by Bronwen Lewis. Click here to be enchanted.

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This is the fifty fourth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Navigating by stars

David Cronenberg is not known for his frothy romcoms, so I was not expecting to 'enjoy' Maps to the Stars. I was correct. This is a dark movie about not just Hollywood's 'underbelly' but the desperation between its toes and under its fingernails... This is a gripping and tragic film that will draw you inexorably into its sticky and glutinous morality.

The acting is steely, cold and understated: delivering performances that will chill and greatly impress you for their naked honesty. If you want to see how ambition, arrogance and greed can corrupt people, this is the film for you. And be impressed by the make-up too: it cannot be easy to make someone look like they are not wearing make up quite so well. This is a film strictly for hacks & fans, I would say. And which probably explains why there were only a dozen people in the cinema watching it on a Friday night. Nonetheless it is a film to see.


A central theme of this film is about saying sorry and seeking forgiveness and thence capacity of the wronged people to be able and willing to forgive. It is not easy doing either, as the film so graphically shows.

I saw a poll the other day which listed the qualities of politicians that people respect the most (and dislike the most). High on the list, if not at the top from my recollection, was the capacity and willingness to apologise.  I think we expect the same of any leader. We all make mistakes and leaders are no different. The mark of an excellent leader is one who can truly say sorry (something I have blogged about before) when the need arises.

How good are you at saying sorry?

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This is the fifty third of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Not the Oxford that I know...

I lived in Oxford for twenty years. Even so, I was always aware that much of it was hidden to me behind the bowler hatted door stewards and alluring gates to the various quads. The Riot Club appears to open a few doors on a side of Oxford I was only dimly aware of...

This is a chilling film that will lower the temperature of your bones. The basic story: boys club plus tribal arrogance plus copious alcohol results in some very unsavoury things happening. You get the gist I am sure. It is tightly acted and directed with the visual treat of an Oxford stage. This is a film to see and speculate on how much of it could be true...


The clear message of this film is that all the members of the club are future legendary leaders of the country who will be bound by the chivalrous pack of one for all and all for one. It is a tale of deep clan loyalty built on shared self interest. (There are no prizes for guessing the connections this story is seeking to make...)

One of the questions the film left me with was: how much of leadership power is borne of credibility built on action by the leader her/himself, and how much does this power arise from past loyalty & favours bestowed or sealed? And what is the optimal balance?

From where does your leadership power arise?

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This is the fifty second of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Is sex funny?

Sex Tape starts with the interesting premise: to what lengths would you go if you thought that a private video of you & your partner having sex had been made public against your intentions? The movie suggests, short of murder, quite a long way... Ignoring some of the glaring narrative holes in the plot line, this film is funny in parts... but also rather cringe-worthy in other parts.

The two main actors are, of course, very bankable stars with deep comedic roots. But if I was left wondering whether Jason Segel co-wrote this just so that he could get naked with Cameron Diaz, then I am not sure the film works. I ought to have been immersed in the story rather than looping out into wondering about the film's provenance. The best bit was Jack Black ironically dispensing relationship advice. The film is OK but it is not brilliant. It is certainly not a date movie unless you have been with your partner for quite a while...!


Part of the comedic tension rests on the conflict between the public and private personas of the main characters, especially the one played by Ms Diaz. The risk is that her image will be tainted by the disclosure of the other...

Even before the advent of social media and 'the cloud' (which, as Ms Diaz points out in the movie, is merely someone else's computer), leaders have faced this challenge. It is called 'walking the talk', professional integrity or ensuring your deeds match words etc. Of course every leader believes she/he has integrity. But in a leadership role it is about what other people think... So it is vital that leaders get this feedback.

Who gives you honest feedback on whether your words and deed match? 

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This is the fifty first of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I am amazed that some films are made

I saw Maze Runner in a cavernous auditorium surrounded by whispering Serbs reading the subtitles. So it was maybe not the best place to appreciate this movie. The film is something like a cross between Lost, Lord of the Flies and Sinbad. It left me cold and with an overwhelming desire to take the 'copy & paste' function away from CGI programmers.

The acting, plot line and direction were as clunky and wooden as a puppet on a string. The twists were 'meh' and it contained about as much suspense as salt & sugar bag of popcorn (gosh... will this be a sweet or a salty mouthful...?!). The end features one of the most shameless set-ups for a sequel that I have ever seen. So don't bother: not even if I you are bored late at night in an Eastern European city...

"Hey, look... I think I can see a story in there somewhere... maybe?"

Leadership is a big theme within the film: as in 'who exactly is the leader?' But among the staged fights, heroic deeds and muscular camaraderie, there is a quieter form of leadership that relies upon thinking, contemplation and analysis. Without this kind of leadership, the story could not have ended (well... sort of ended: see above).

Of course, there will always be the need for bold & extrovert leadership that provides a visible focus for people to focus their energies and spirit upon. But where there is yang, there must also be yin to achieve balance and sustainable progress.

Does yin leadership balance with yang leadership in your organisation?

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This is the fiftieth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Twist & shaking off the past

SPOILER ALERT: I went to see Before I Go To Sleep last night.

Having just about recovered from a trailer to a horror movie that I am definitely not going to see, I settled down to the film billed as "an intriguing amnesia thriller with an extraordinary twist!" This meant I spent almost the whole time trying to guess what the twist was going to be. (Please note Cineworld: declaring there to be a twist is akin to a spoiler - which is why I have put this at the top of this blog)

As for the movie, it just was not taut enough for me. I am not sure how many 'amnesia thrillers' there have been (is this a genre that I need to study more?) but I don't think this is one of the best. It just felt a bit too heavily ladled with clue hints to the audience. Technically the movie is proficient, the acting solid (as you would expect from the cast) but something was missing. But maybe all the narrative twists have been deployed before?


Leadership is about change and developing organisations to do things differently in a changing world. Learning new skills, exploring new outlooks on the world and adjusting personal, as well as organisational, strategies is mix of acquiring something new and forgetting something old.

In other words, learning something new is also almost invariably about unlearning something old. So as a leader, it is your job not only to usher in the new, but also assist yourself and others unlearn the old. This means, at the very least, highlighting this fact and allowing people time to decouple themselves from the old ways. A bit of managed amnesia, if you like.

When was the last time you helped someone forget an old skill or outlook? What did you learn about how best to do this?

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This is the forty ninth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Baseball movies usually do nothing for me...

Being a Brit, I have always failed to grasp the quasi religious obsession that America has with baseball and therefore baseball based movies. But Million Dollar Arm is different. Not many films make me punch the air with elation, but this one did! This is a peach of film that will leave you glowing like the Taj Mahal at sunset. Go see it. You will be uplifted.

The acting is superb: understated but completely authentic. The story, as all true stories are, is a classic mix of ups & downs, "will he/she/they, won't they/she/he" moments and a sumptuous & satisfying conclusion. The photography is evocative & ironic. It all comes together so well. Indeed, I was driven to buy an Indian take-away on the way home: that is how sensory the film is.


There is only one character who doesn't go on a journey in this film, but I will leave you guess who I think this is. Some long distances are traveled geographically but these are short compared to the spiritual treks the remaining characters have. But this isn't a film about enlightenment. This is a film about self belief and confidence.

I was asked to design a series of modules for a leadership programme the other day which I happily listed to include strategy development & application, coaching, process redesign, change management... yada yada. But actually what I would like to do, is just show them this movie... Because in the end, how fast and accurately you throw the (leadership) ball is far less about technique and far more about self belief.

What do you believe you can become?

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This is the forty eighth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cops breaking the rules

Let's be cops if fantasy romp with about as much narrative integrity and close directorial editing as a blancmange, albeit a very funny (in the main) blancmange. Whereas the Keeper of Lost Causes is anything but funny but is probably a far truer reflection of grimy, frustrating, laborious policing. Both films are worth seeing, but not in the same sitting. I saw them both separated by a day. A week in between would have been better.

Many of the biggest laughs with the funny cops movie appeared in the trailer and, as it turned out, this buddy movie had its strong poignant and thriller moments. The unfunny cops movie, in Danish with subtitles, continued the now established genre of dark Scandinavian crime thriller with excellent acting from the three main characters. Although in the end, it felt like more of a TV drama than a feature film.




Oddly, although the two films are very different, what links them is a commitment to doing the right thing even when they have been told not to so. I won't expand on that, as I do not want to give too much away about either plot.

And this is also the case for exceptional leaders: they will do what they know to be right even when people around them are telling them to stop or do something different. Indeed what probably marks superlative leaders out is their courage to break the rules.

When did you last break a rule or defy an instruction?

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This is the forty sixth (and seventh) of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

100% simplicity

After Under the Skin, I was a little nervous that Lucy would underwhelm me as much. Thankfully I can report that, safe in the hands of Luc Besson, it is film to enthrall, shock and shake you. You may think you have the gist of the story from the trailer, but you don't.

At times, this film felt like a lecture with a melange of what appears to be stock footage to emphasise certain points. But at other times it is a roller coaster ride through the streets of Paris and synapses of Scarlett Johansson. A strong narrative, determined and grimy performances from all the cast and seamless editing all make for a movie you will not forget.


This is no SPOILER (unless you have not seen the trailer..): the premise of the film rests on the idea that we are only using 10% to 15% of our brain power and upping that percentage leads to exponential increases in our capacity to manipulate our environment. (What this does to your ethical standards, I will leave you to judge!)

Many leaders spend a good deal of time on increasing their capacity to absorb information, practice techniques and approaches acquired in business schools and generally seek to be better, sharper and more skilled than those around them. However the best leaders also seem to be able to inspire fresh efforts with simplicity and common sense.

So when you are 'sharpening your saw', how are you also keeping things simple as they can be (but no simpler...)? 

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This is the forty fifth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What if there is no question mark (...?)

I spent the first few moments of What If wondering why there was no question mark at the end of the title. Was this just another (Canadian) way of saying whatever? Was the other half of the title missing, so why not miss out the question mark too? Anyway, then I got wrapped up in the movie and began wondering how it would all end. How would this movie take fresh look at an old topic: can a (straight) man and woman just be friends or... Harry met Sally yada yada (?)

Well the good news is that this film will keep you guessing up until its closing minutes. I dare you to predict how it all ends. This is a fine script, delivered authentically by the main characters. It is well cast, photographed and scored. It has cute and awkward moments in good measure. The film will leave you wistful, philosophic, hopeful and twinkling about fidelity and love. Go see it. Another film to make you smile.


The plot of the film centres on truth and honesty: are we being honest with a person if we don't tell them the whole truth? There are always plenty of rational reasons why a leader may not always tell the whole story and feel obliged to keep something back. And this conflicts with a broader principle of being a truthful & straightforward leader. Or is this what makes a leader a leader: the ability to balance honesty with discretion?

Someone once said (was it Groucho?) that if you can fake authenticity then you have got it made. And we have all observed leaders who appear to be able to do this and yet we still want to follow them: as if we are prepared to collude in the deception that we are not being told all that we need to be told... Perhaps this is because we know (or think we know) that being 100% open, honest, truthful is just not tenable in many situations. And then do we go a step further and stop being wholly honest with ourselves? When does less than 100% honesty turn from being discrete, politic & careful into mendacious, manipulative and corrosive?

What if we don't know when we are crossing that boundary?

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This is the forty fourth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Australia is just a small island

I gave up resistance yesterday and went to see The Inbetweeners 2. I can report that it is funny: very funny. Although if you are not into scatological humour, you might find some of the scenes a bit close to the edge of 'OMG!'for you. I have been following this teenage (?) foursome since the TV series began in 2008 and enjoyed the first movie as well. It is possible that you can only truly appreciate this oeuvre of humour if you were a teenage boy once, but the cinema was full of both men and women yesterday afternoon.

As you will probably know by now, the plot centres on a trip to Australia by the four likely lads (ranging in real ages from 27 to 31) in search of >insert appropriate inappropriate slang word<. It isn't all ribald, raunchy & rough comedy (well not quite): it does contain some well aimed satire on the whole 'travelling the world' culture. You will leave with a smile on your face and (if you are like me) a few memorable lines (watch out for the guitar quote by the fire) to cite.


The yurt scene highlighted for me the challenge of inquiring, listening and truly accepting all that might be said when a leader asks for views on a particular topic. The humour in the scene centres on whether some statements are deemed acceptable whilst others are not, even though the leader has said that all contributions are OK...

Leaders cannot operate in isolation. They must inquire, listen and absorb the views contributed by those around them. They may disagree with what is said or written. But if there is any schism between inviting complete honesty and not being prepared to hear the honest opinions of others, this will close down the dialogue. People will just contribute what they think the leaders wants to hear.

How are your schisms?

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This is the forty third of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Galactic diversity

Despite having seen the trailer a number of times and not being a comic book reader, I didn't really know what to expect from Guardians of the Galaxy. So it was with unalloyed joy, that I sat back in my seat, and reveled in this romp through the universe. This is a 'fat' movie that has several subcutaneous layers full of humour, pathos, tenderness, irony and seamless sfx. And the story is damn fine too and sets up well for a sequel, which I believe is on the way.

It is difficult to talk about the acting especially when several of the characters are submerged in CGI makeup and one says the same the line over and over again (well, nearly, and with different intonation). But the acting is convincing: indeed the first ten minutes plummeted me into an emotional relationship with the main character at a speed that is rare. If scifi is even a small part of your soul, go see this movie!


There have been a few times in my career when I have been part of a dream team: where everyone just seemed to bend and wrap themselves around the other team members creating a fusion of collaborative high performance. I and they just seemed to know how the others would think and act, and could adjust our actions to complement everyone else's.

I have long wondered whether this was just good luck or whether the quality of the leadership made the difference? The team that saves the galaxy in this movie are thrown together by chance. But it is the leadership which manages to change the group into a team. On display in the film is a combination of straight talking, the setting of inspirational goals, determination, compassion and humour. That recipe works in the movie, but I think different recipes are needed with different teams. The art of leadership is determining just what is needed.

When did you last turn a group into a team? How did you accomplish this? What did you learn?

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This is the forty second of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Disturbing dystopia

I know many people just don't get science fiction: how can something so unreal have anything worthwhile to say? On the other hand, I would say that SciFi allows for hypotheses to be tested and (more critically) current trends to be extrapolated. In this sense, SciFi movies are history in reverse. Just as people who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, people who 'forget' the future are condemned to enter it...

The Purge: Anarchy is probably one of the most discomforting films I have seen in a long while. If you look past the bloody violence, you will see a violence of an even greater kind (I will let you find out what). The message that this is where America is heading unless it sorts out its gun worship / crime is imparted with as much subtlety as a machete. Nonetheless, the story (within the hopefully implausible future) is plausible (just) and the acting workaday convincing. Mix Rollerball, 1900 and Grand Theft Auto and you are about there. Go with gritted teeth and something to grip...


Timing is everything in leadership. It is about knowing when to act, when to pause, when to run (as in away from people brandishing machetes!) The film is full of such moments when the leader/hero stops, collects his breath, thinks and coolly decides what to do next. As the audience, we are doing the same: what would we do now?

Pausing is one of the most powerful leadership traits. I know we are sometimes lured into admiring and therefore seeking to emulate the 'snap decision makers', the leaders who can 'make things up as they go along' and 'think on their feet'. But good leaders only do this when the situation demands: pausing not only allows more time to consider options, it also means that others are more engaged as well.

When did you last pause publicly?

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This is the forty first of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fairer outsourcing to SMEs

There is an article in this morning's Independent heralding the arrival of Piers Linney (BBC Dragon) to the Cabinet Office's SME Panel. You can read the article here. As the Indie's comment system seems a bit restrictive, here is the full comment that I wanted to post!
For readers' information: the Cabinet Office SME panel has been meeting for over 3 years and welcomed Piers to his first meeting last week. The Panel has been working with the Cabinet Office on a suite of interventions designed to ensure a level playing field for government procurement. 
If you search on > sme panel cabinet < a number of useful links will pop up. 
Panel members represent the breadth of suppliers to government and have given their time freely in support of the bold objective to introduce the hyper value for money, innovation and boost to British enterprise that only SME's can bring.
Jon Harvey (SME Panel Member since 2011)
There is also a stream of articles on this blog about the work of the panel, if you wish to know more. Here is the link to all those articles (and related ones connected to procurement).

UPDATE 290714 | 0758: The Cabinet Office has published its own follow up article, listing (for the first time) the members of the Panel that has been meeting over the last three years. Including yours truly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Duh movie

I feared when I saw he trailer for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie some weeks ago that all the best (and possibly only corker) gags would feature. Sadly I was right. I enjoy the TV show hugely and I really wanted the film to be good. But it is not, sadly. Basically, the film is neither fish nor fowl.

Whenever, I see poor movie, I try to think how it could have been better. So here goes: the story needed more credibility (it did not hang together). If you are going to make a point of saying 'but this is a movie', do it more! Make that a comedic theme. And if you are going to use the knowingly playing to camera trick (a la Frankie Howerd), then do it more (it's a movie not a half hour TV show!) A disappointing film and I hope there is no sequel made except on the small screen (where it works really well)


The film is peppered with the talents of the usual cast of characters who reveal themselves to have depths & pasts that have hitherto been hidden. At various times these talents are all deployed to bring the story to a successful conclusion (just!) This got me to pondering on how good leaders can bring out the hidden talents of people.

Much of this comes from the belief that everyone has at least one hidden talent if not several. The leadership art is in creating the conditions within which people will be prepared to show what they can do and that these talents can be subsequently harnessed in pursuit of organisational goals.

Do you believe that everyone has at least one hidden talent? How good are you at creating the conditions whereby these talents are revealed and then used?

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This is the fortieth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Planet of Trust

The story of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes pivots on trust: can two tribes (humans and apes) learn to trust each other enough to prevent war... or not. Anyone who knows the whole story (and I can still remember the moment when Charlton Heston rides along the beach - which I saw more than 45 years ago), will know which way the story goes. Nonetheless, the narrative is gripping and leaves you pondering on the real conflicts of the world.

Of course, you can simply be amazed by the quality of the special effects and the digital make-up worn by the apes: it is breathtaking. Andy Serkis probably won't but would deserve an Oscar for his portrayal of Caesar. And this is a spectacular film with excellent cinematography. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. But it is a very worthy film.


Some leaders appear to think that trust is like a tap that can be turned on or off. Whereas in truth, I think, trust is something as fragile as butterfly's wing, is earned by (not to be expected as a result of) assiduous and ethically consistent behaviour, and exists in the minds of those who trust.

It has been my experience that most people want to trust their leaders and look for opportunities to do so. Which means, I think, that most people are reasonably forgiving when a leader takes a decision that appears at odds with wider plans. But there are decisions from which there is no going back and trust if not destroyed forever, is lost for a very long time. The art of being a good leader is knowing when you are at risk of crossing the line and making one of those latter decisions. It is then a question of finding another path (or not of course).

What have you done recently that might have come close to that line? 

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This is the thirty ninth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Voluptuous panic

Some films transport you to different worlds and places - essentially taking you out of yourself. Some films get under your skin and bury deep into your heart - taking you into yourself. Boyhood is a film of the latter kind. Watching a boy grow up (and his family change around him) compels you to mull on your own childhood. And if you are are Dad like me, on your own fatherhood too. Indeed the word that sums this film up is: compelling.

Some of the acting felt a little bit stiff and if you are hoping for some great storyline, there isn't one. Instead we observe the kinds of events that shape all of our lives: the humdrum, the awkward, the occasionally dramatic and achingly poignant. All are momentous and yet all are ordinary. Just go with the flow and go see this movie: it will stay with you for a very long time. (And watch out for the line that talks of voluptuous panic!)


Leaders never stop growing up. If you think you have leadership sorted, it will be because you don't have it sorted. Leadership is about learning: nothing more, nothing less. I am told that sharks die if they stop moving. It is the same for leaders: stop growing, stop learning, stop reflecting and you may just as well stop.

Recently I was fortunate enough to receive some impromptu coaching from someone I trust and have great confidence in. Over some damn fine coffee, she asked me some damn fine questions. And I changed: made a critical decision and reframed what I am spending my time doing. It felt like a load had been lifted from my shoulders (and still does). At any moment (and good coaching helps), this can happen to any of us. We keep on moving, changing, growing and developing.

Perhaps there is a sequel to this film that may have already begun: called 'Adulthood'??

What moments from your childhood would you put on film? (Why?)

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This is the thirty eighth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Again & again!

Begin Again is one of those very rare movies that having seen, you will want to see again. I did. I would have quite happily walked straight back into the cinema and watched it once more. This is a delightful, charming, transcendental film with a sound track to die for. It is like watching a woodland brook bubble and glide over shimmering stones. There is a main narrative but surrounded by small eddies & whirlpools of sub plots which could have spun off into stories of themselves.

The acting is authentic and passionate: as naturalistic as many of the best films of France. I have no idea what Kiera Knightley & Mark Ruffalo are like in real life, but they just seem to inhabit their roles. Indeed, all the acting is magnetic & bright eyed: the performances draw you in. This is a powerful film that you simply must go and see.


This is story about doing what is right for you: not being persuaded to sell out, compromise or just fit in. In this respect, it is awkward movie that should (if you let it) make you wonder if you have, perhaps, lost some connection with the dreams you began with.

The hardest part of being a leader is truly knowing what is your 'thing', your 'bag', your 'cri de coeur', your passion / focus / aim / ambition... (whatever you want to call it). What will you not give up? What are you at risk of giving up? What have you given up so far but could find again? What have you lost forever?

If you want to lead people: you have to know the answers to these questions.

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This is the thirty seventh of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What makes a Mâch~iâ~velliân whistle blowing leader?

Machiavelli, not one to mince words, wrote:
A prince must therefore always seek advice… he must always be a constant questioner, and he must listen patiently to the truth regarding what he has inquired about, moreover if he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath. (from 'The Prince' Penguin Classics publication translated by George Bull, 1981)
If he hadn't have been the world's first public sector management consultant, Machiavelli would have been a whistleblower. Truth was very important to him. Wise & grounded leaders still regard truth as an essential ingredient in running any organisation successfully. Only unwise leaders want to surround themselves with people who offer only sanitised versions of the truth.

And so it is that remarkable leaders take action to encourage whistleblowing. This of course is not what happened to James Patrick, whose story is now well known. But if you have not seen it, I commend this short video interview of him by the Cliff Caswell, editor of Police Oracle. But other leaders can and should do different. But what needs to be put in place?

There is some useful guidance here: Whistleblowing arrangements: Code of practice (PAS 1998:2008) which includes a useful checklist. The Public Concern At Work website is a rich source of information and case studies as well.

But all this got me to thinking, what would I expect of a leader who not only claims to be supportive of whistleblowing (as many do) but who is, in fact, supportive of it. In my opinion, such a leader would:
  • Evidence an ability to listen and act upon information provided via whistleblowing
  • Understand and be able to explain in straightforward terms, the difference between grievances and whistleblowing - and when they need to be invoked
  • Be able to give examples of where whistleblowing has made a positive difference to the services being provided to the public
  • Be able to counter convincingly (the oft repeated accusations) that those who whistleblow usually end up outside the organisation or being passed over for promotion (etc.)
  • Put in place sufficient resources (such as a helpline and more) to allow confidential whistleblowing to occur
  • Be clear that whistleblowing rights are extended to all, including contractors
  • Sponsor and help shape an effective communications strategy that reaches into every nook and crevice of the organisation, so that everyone knows about how they can whistleblow
  • See how whistleblowing connects with organisational improvement, reputation management, social media & comms policies and leadership development
  • Challenge other leaders who may have bought the T-shirt but are not quite wearing it yet!
  • Review progress and test whether whistleblowing is happening as it should
  • Be whistleblowers themselves (should the need arise) and have the capability and commitment to speak truth unto power
  • Show even more ability just to listen... (and learn and act...)
There is probably more (what would you add?).

But how do you measure up?