Monday, 13 April 2015

Following your heart

The Water Diviner is a excellent film: a gripping narrative, a highly charged subject, convincing acting, great costumes, good cinematography, wonderful sets and locations, and crisp direction. Yes, it's a bit schmultzy and maybe a little predictable: but it is all the more satisfying because of that.

My only quibble is not really knowing quite how much was made up and how much of the story is based on real events. Perhaps that does not matter in the end, but I just would like to have been told... It would have helped me to understand how true was the depiction of Turkish politics in that pre Attaturk period. But a good film nonetheless - well worth a watch.


This is a passionate film: the passions post the first world war are very high - not least in Turkey where the war is continuing between the Turks and Greeks. In the middle of this is the story of a man desperate to bring his three sons home from Gallipoli. Driven by grief, a promise and a somewhat mystical confidence that he will locate them in the ruins of the battlefield, is a man who won't give up.

Leadership is about passion: passion to keep on keeping on when many round you are saying give up. And leadership that inspires passion in others too - sometimes over quite banal things. Good leaders know this. Great leaders can divine their sources of passion even when they mostly feel deflated or lost.

How good are you at divining your own sources of passion?

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This is the eighty third of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Your past is never passed

The Gunman is a gritty, gruelling and violent 'dodgy security operative' thriller in a similar vein to many other films (like Blood Diamond) that use African instability and civil wars as the backdrop to mercenary crimes. Almost no character comes out of this film looking good.

The script is plausible if a little predictable. The acting is top notch: it is delightful to see Mark Rylance on the big screen. But heaven knows how many hours in the gym that Sean Penn does each week. This is a not a memorable film but one that can be enjoyed on a wet windy afternoon.


The narratives of so many thrillers like this one hinge on trust & loyalty - just who can you trust. Frankly I don't know how spies and mercenaries can ever form lasting relationships with anyone as they must always be wondering what next...

And maybe it's the same for leaders: does the leader always wonder whether they are trusted or not? Some leaders seem not to care: good leaders know that with trust comes so much more. Trust is the most precious thing a leader can have: it is hard won (and easily lost). And sometimes, it is your past catching up with you that might catch you out...

What have you done today to sustain the trust that people have in you?

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This is the eighty second of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Quoi?

Suite Française is an atmospheric film that gave me a sense of what it must have been like to be French and occupied in a way that no other film has done so before. This is a tribute to its actors, direction, sets, locations and costumes. I felt a deep mix of fear, despair, confusion, anger and longing at different times during the film. But I didn't really feel the love.

For me, there was no chemistry between the two main protagonists not because they didn't act it well, but I was left perplexed and confused by the story: perhaps the book, with more detail, is better? Indeed at the end, as the final credits rolled, there were a couple of statements that left me completely confused as to what the movie had, in fact, been all about.  Perhaps the movie was a success if it was designed to make the cinema goer feel as confused as the French must have been during the days of occupation: not knowing who or what to trust, or what the narrative meant.


For me the film raises difficult questions about ethics and maintaining integrity within a very up-side-down world. In other words when almost everything has changed, how do you know what is right or wrong any more?

Once upon a time, leaders operated within mono-cultures where the lines between right action and wrong action were easy to see. As our world has become more pluralist and mixed, those lines are far more blurred. We are surrounded by competing views of the world, imprinting themselves on our retinas & minds 24 hours a day. Now, more than ever, a leader needs that moral centre of gravity to help guide her/him through this ethical maelstrom.

What is your centre of gravity?

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This is the eighty first of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Still a leader?

Still Alice is not a fun night out but then you wouldn't expect this movie to be so: this is the agonising story of a woman diminished in her prime by the ravages of Alzheimers disease. Julianne Moore has rightfully received an Oscar for her portrayal of the title character: a linguistics professor who starts to lose her words.

But this is a hugely important film in the way that Rain Man taught the world about autism. This film will be long remembered and is probably already being used as way of learning about dementia. Of course each story of dementia is unique but for people like me, who rarely come across people with the disease, this film provides a valuable narrative hook on which to hang any experience of it that I might have. This is a closely directed movie with some stunning acting all round. Go see it for its humanity and poignancy.


According to the movie (and this is not really a SPOILER, but stop here if you want to know absolutely nothing about the story...) people with Alzheimers who are more intelligent often show more rapid declines in their functioning than less intelligent people. (The central character is a university lecturer of international repute so probably comes into the category of 'more intelligent'...) This, we are told, is due to such people being initially adept at finding methods to mask and work around their mounting cognitive difficulties. (We see the main character doing this.) But there comes a point where these methods no longer work and they tumble into decline.

And so this got me wondering whether some managers do this too: do they create 'workarounds' that mask their lack of leadership? Can you think of managers who do this perhaps by initiating mission statements and business process re-engineering etc etc - which could simply be tricks to make them appear to be good leaders?

What are the tricks that some people use to make it appear they function well as a leader when in fact they don't....?

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This is the eightieth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Stay focused

Focus is a slick movie starring the very cool Will Smith. This is a classic addition to the other 'big con' movies such as Ocean's 11/12/13, The Sting and the Thomas Crown Affair (indeed the closing credits feature "Windmills of your mind" perhaps in due reference to that movie). So I began the film wondering how I, as viewer, was going to be conned... I was not disappointed.

The acting is delightfully naturalistic, especially Margot Robbie who glides through the film like an intriguing ingénue. Editing is also to be highly praised in the way that the film moves from one scene and shot to another. This is a well made & tightly directed film that will make you laugh and ponder. Go see it!!


We are told in numerous movies that the art of being a thieving confidence trickster is mostly about distraction: take a person's attention somewhere else and they will not see what is really happening. And our attention can be easily drawn to fast buck, a sure win, a sad story, a noise, a shove or a person of high attraction. Frankly, after watching a film like this, I am astounded that more of this kind of crime doesn't happen. But maybe it does and people sheepishly fail to report it...

So as a leader, should you ever use the art of distraction (look here, not over there...)? It must be so tempting to do so because a) the tools and influence are there to deploy so easily and b) it can be justified as being part of a bigger and more worthy goal. As always it's about integrity and being true to oneself (and the risk of being found out!) Only you can make these choices.

What conjuring tricks have you done as a leader?

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This is the seventy ninth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Learning about the future

Chappie didn't quite work for me. Whilst the character of the robot was endearing, the timescale in which the whole story was meant to have happened seemed impractical. Yes I know, an AI robot could learn really quickly yada yada, but this stretched my credulity.

That said, the film does bowl along at a good pace with some edge of the seat tension. Oh yes, with reference to 'edge of the seat tension', I saw this film in 4DX: Cineworld MK's answer to the Feelies from Brave New World.
"Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Postman added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us."
So go and see the movie (even in 4DX) and be pleasured by an optmistic story set in a dystopian future... that will almost certainly have a sequel. Watch our for Chappiie!


The story attempts to place immoral behaviour in its context and while some behaviour (even quite extreme violence) is 'justified' by the limited life choices facing some of the characters, other acts are determined to be wrong given the wider options open and the underlying motives of avarice and a hunger for recognition from another character.

People will forgive and support the people they trust, like and believe in, for actions which in other circumstances would be scorned. And people will do this even when objective evidence is scant or non existent.

And (I know I have said this before), leadership pivots on trust. Without trust there is no leadership.

How do you continue to demonstrate to those who look to you for leadership, that they can trust you?

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This is the seventy eighth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Baking cakes in the future

Cake is an uncompromising and raw look at pain and grief. So it is not your happiest kind of film and it certainly isn't a date movie.

It features Jennifer Aniston as you have probably never seen before: in anguish, saggy clothes and no make-up for most of the film. It was rumoured that she was in line for an Oscar nomination but was pipped by someone else. I am not sure her performance was of Oscar standard, but she acts it extraordinarily well. One day, one day, she will shake of the ghost of Rachel.

But go see this movie for its authenticity, narrative & humour which are woven together into a moving mix. It works well and certainly a key ingredient in the mix is the long suffering but deeply loyal & compassionate maid, Sylvana.


This film is a lesson in how difficult it is to 'move on' as the vernacular dictates that we should. Some things (and we eventually learn what it is in this movie) are just so extraordinarily hard to move on from...

Sometimes leaders imagine that people can easily let go of the past and embrace the the future that the leader wants to take them towards. But it isn't so easy. It also about people letting go of the future they thought they were going to have as well as habits and feelings of the past... Great leaders recognise this and build it into their change management plans.

How can you help people let go of hoped for futures?

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This is the seventy seventh of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Jupiter rising

Jupiter Ascending is a schlock scifi film with plenty of derring-do, knife edge, cliff edge stunts (that are probably all blue screen these days - I pity the stunt people who I guess are now resting on their broken bones). The story moves at fast pace but with predictable results. One day, they will make a film where the baddies win, as they sadly often do in real life.

The life of an actor must be a curious thing. One day you are being lauded for a superlative performance as a renowned physicist and the next you are being roundly punished for being the baddest baddy in another universe. I wonder which job paid more? This is an enjoyable film for a wet Wednesday afternoon, but not much more.


One of the more surreal episodes in the film centres on the main character having to patiently wait in line for some labyrinthine bureaucratic process to proceed. It is like a scene out of Brazil (Terry Gilliam's wondrous anarchic epic). But what does this have to say about leadership?

I think it shows that the mundane, the tedious, and the excruciatingly picky aspects of life can still inflict themselves upon leaders. And the only thing a leader can do is wait patiently. Rage may be felt, but bureaucracy will always beat rage. Without patience, leaders cannot operate. And whilst impatience is also necessary, patience is an essential attribute of any great leader.

What are you waiting for right now?

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This is the seventy sixth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, 20 February 2015

From King's Speech to Kingsman?

I was not planning on going to see Kingsman: The Secret Service until someone told me she thought it was very funny. I thought that perhaps I had not given this film a chance (based on browsing a few reviews) so I duly toddled along to see it. I wish I hadn't.

This mix of Man from Uncle, Carry on Spying and Men in Black just didn't work for me. It is so 'shock full' of gratuitous violence, cringing stereotypes & jarring mockney accents that I almost walked out. What an earth the stellar cast were thinking of, I fail to understand. Perhaps I am missing something, or just not in the right demographic, I don't know. Maybe if you are a bored teenager in half term it is the go to movie... but there are much better movies around...


This film pivots on paying off debts of honour: never forgetting who helped you to be who you are. Sometimes these debts just happen (as in the film), and sometimes people make a point of creating them. And sometimes we just do things for each other because we want to, with no sense that one day we will want to cash in that favour. That is the basis of altruism.

In my view, excellent leadership is ultimately all about altruism: doing things for others because they are the right things to do. It is never about creating 'debts' that will someday be called in...

As a leader, what was your last truly altruistic act?

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This is the seventy fifth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Big leadership

Big Hero 6 is a fun movie with some excellent animation and some good twists and turns in the story. You know it is going to have a happy ending but the movie goer is left wondering quite how that will come about.

It is a successful blend of buddy movie and scifi which will charm you and make you laugh. It had moments of pathos as well to let you pretend you are not just seeing it for the gags. For an animation of this kind, the narrative is strong enough (just) to maintain interest while delivering some chortles along the way. It is a big marshmallow of a film.


For me the leadership theme is this movie is all about finding the hidden (and not hidden, as well) talents in people: no matter how 'geeky' or weird or whatever they might appear. Good leaders know that everyone has that 'something' that with the right application, desire, sometimes technology and encouragement can be unleashed.

This is a film about how 'ordinary' people are enabled, persuaded and supported to become extraordinary. We all have a superhero inside us. The mark of a great leader is someone who can help people believe in that. Leadership is not about 'me', it is always about 'you'...

How do you approach the challenge of helping someone discover their 'superhero' inside?
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This is the seventy fourth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

An honest man?

A most violent year is a very cool movie: led by an extraordinary performance by Oscar Issac. Set in 1980s NYC, it is a story of petty corruption and racketeering in the heating oil business. The lead character is under great pressure to close a business development deal while having his oil stolen from his trucks.

It is a gripping story about whether an honest business man will finally succumb to corruption himself or not. Will he go over to the 'dark side'? You will have to see the film to find out! Sets, scenes, costumes and the general mood of the film are quite simply brilliant: genuinely evoking the spirit of the 80s. This quiet, understated film deserves a higher profile. Go see it.


At one point in the film, the lead character is confronted by the District Attorney who says that he may well be laying charges against him and his business. In his defence, the character says that he always tried to do the "most right" thing.

Sometimes, people seem to think that ethics is binary / cut & dried. An action is either right or wrong. Of course that is rarely the case: some actions are more ethical than others... more right than others.

How do you balance which is the more right action, of a set of possible options?

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This is the seventy third of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Should have read Asimov

I was looking forward to Ex Machina greatly: it had all the promise of a profound and memorable scifi movie. But whilst it was riveting for 90% of the movie, the ending did not work for me. But that is probably a personal thing and other people may find this the best scifi movie for a long while.

The scripting was tight with ironic frills, the setting amazing and the acting variable. Best of all was the actor portraying Ava, the AI 'being'. But I think the narrative became a bit frayed at the end and lost some integrity. So rather than be immersed in the film, I started rewriting the script in the cinema and began to cynically wonder whether we were being set up for a sequel... or even a trilogy.


In the movie, we get to meet the head of a futuristic corporation called 'BlueBook', which is Google v99 (or some such). He is hip, blokeish and likes his vodka (but will beards still be in fashion in the future...?) He is also hyper intense and scarily powerful. So I reflected on what lessons on leadership could be learned from him...

But in fact, the best lesson to be had was from Ava. She evidenced her 'humanity' through the use of comedic irony, trusting disclosure and manipulation. This highlighted for me, the importance of humour in leadership: the ability to make people laugh. I am not saying that leaders need to be stand up comedians. But I do think people look for good timing & wry takes on the world from their leaders, at the very least.

When did you last raise a smile or an eyebrow among your followers?

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This is the seventy second of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Whipped to perfection

Whiplash is one of those films that will stay in your mind for a very long time - if not forever. It is a stonking good film with Oscar winning features: I predict that, at the very least, J.K. Simmons will pick up the award for best actor in a supporting role (although it is hardly supporting...) This film will rivet you to your seat as you question to what lengths you would go to bring out the best in someone.

The cinematography, the editing and the directing are top notch. And as you might expect with a musically centred story, the score is superlative. The story is very simple: young man wants to become the best jazz drummer in the world. His moody coach / conductor helps / breaks (depending on your point of view) him in the process of trying to get there. Go. See. This. Movie.


Leadership is about creating new leaders. It is about bringing out the best in people. Leaders help people become more than they thought possible. The art is in knowing what will work for each person because no one is the same. If leaders only use one method or one range, then they do not understand what it means to be a leader.

Whiplash is an extreme movie which shows just how far a leader can go in seeking to challenge someone to new heights of performance. You will be left wondering whether the coach goes to far or maybe just got it just right: do the ends justify the means? (The film will not answer that question for you.)

Where do you draw the line?
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This is the seventy first of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Taken too far

I do not know who penned the first ever trilogy or came up with the idea, but some trilogies should not be made. Matrix 3 comes to mind. And to this list, I now add Taken 3. I love Liam Neeson's character & the first two films were gripping & thrilling. This one is predictable, gratuitous and corny.

When I saw Luc Besson's name as one of the writers, I settled into my seat expecting a darn good movie. And the acting by Forest Whitaker is great. Taken (1) was credible (within the genre of this kind of stuff) and aside from the terrible bad luck of it happening all over again to the central character, so was Taken 2. But this one jumped the shark, sadly. Don't bother until it is a £3 DVD in W H Smiths.


A couple of days ago, the offices of South Oxfordshire District Council were burnt down in what could have been an arson attack. I am hoping and assuming that the leaders of that organisation would have prepared for such a possibility and have contingency plans in place. The council administers essential services for the local community (not least my brother who runs a taxi service in the area!)

Similarly, at one point in Taken 3, Liam Neeson's character retreats to his 'bat cave'-like stash of clean clothes, loaded guns, electronic wizardry etc... In other words he had prepared for a range of eventualities. Good leaders are doing this all the time: asking those 'what if' questions and ensuring that proportionate contingency plans & arrangements are put in place.

What 'what if' plans have you made?

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This is the seventieth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Up in the air

Birdman is a curious and uncompromising film that takes some serious watching. I felt challenged to discriminate between what was real and what was fantasy for Riggan, the central part. It follows the classic play within a play format (maybe even play within a play within a play...?) and depicts Beetlejuice as a washed up actor trying to reclaim some authenticity by staging a show he has written, directed and stars in.

Lots of things are thrown around, lots of spit is spat as the actors confront themselves and audience on stage. In an odd way, it was almost as if Apocalypse Now had been transposed to Broadway. Whilst the lead actors do a fine job, the quiet understated acting of the lesser roles adds much richness and depth to the film. A film to experience rather than enjoy!


One of the big questions the film seeks to address, in my opinion, is whether you can be confident in yourself even if it appears that no one else is... Are we defined by others or do we define ourselves and then attract people to us who match out own appreciation? What came first: the Birdman or the egg?

For me, the film asserts the truth that it is for each leader to define themselves. That does not mean, not searching for and hearing feedback and other's appraisals. But it always means comparing the appraisal by others with our own sense of self. Leadership, authentic leadership, is first about knowing who we are.

Who are you?
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This is the sixty ninth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Leaders need leaders

The Theory of Everything is a remarkable film about a remarkable man and his remarkable wife. Don't go and see it if you think it is a film version of his famous book. But do go and see it if you want to be blown away by the courage, tenacity and humanity of Stephen and Jane Hawking. This is a film that will humble and amaze you.

The acting is breathtaking, the sets and costumes superlative (I so remember that fad for stoneware teapots in the seventies) and the humour is just delightfully understated. The lead actor may well be a shoe-in for an Oscar. By coincidence, this film reverberates with 2015 word of the year: hope. Where there is life there is hope which the film evidences in bucketfuls. This is a must see movie!


I am one of perhaps many people who bought A Brief History of Time but never got around to reading it! One day maybe! But I know that Professor Hawking has changed physics and our understanding of the universe for ever. His ideas leadership is second to none.

But what struck me from the film is how much of his leadership he could have unfurled without the leaders around him who inspired him, honoured him, loved him, supported him and challenged him. Notably of course is his wife and mother of his children, but also many others feature. It is rare to find a leader who does not have other leaders nearby...

Who are your nearby leaders that help you?

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This is the sixty eighth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Leadership in Films

Last Christmas, my wonderful wife gave me one of my favourite Christmas presents ever (probably just behind the Scalextric set I opened at 3am one Christmas morning a few years back...): a year's unlimited movie going to Cineworld. Since then, I have seen 67 movies, more than one a week on average. I love films and I love getting value for money too!

I chose to turn the movie going into something of a work project too: after each film I write a two paragraph review of film followed by two paragraphs on the leadership theme hiding between the frames of the movie. And I have done this with every film, not just the earnest and 'deep' ones.

So there are the leaderships themes from Frozen, Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar and The Penguins of Madagascar. And many more: just click the label 'film' and you will see then all. Or if there is a film you are considering buying as a DVD, and it came out this year, there is a good chance I have reviewed it.

So what next? Well, I couldn't resist doing it again next year. So I have renewed my membership (hallo Cineworld, you have me for another year!) and will continue to blog about each film and leadership theme. If you want to follow my progress, you can subscribe to this blog or follow me on twitter: @JonSHarvey. I also use the hastag #leadershipinfilms

So I hope you have enjoyed my reviews so far and are looking forward to next year's films. I know I am!

Finally: Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!!  (My Christmas Message video is here too)


Plucky penguins to the rescue!

The Penguins of Madagascar is a silly, silly film that is very, very funny. It feels like a return to the cartoons of the 50s and 60s which did not try to mimic real life but wallowed in the ridiculousness that the medium can allow. In this film, an octopus tries to destroy all penguins from a submarine the size of the QE2. Only a crack team of four penguins, who can manoeuvre a gondola on stilts through the streets of Venice can defeat him... See what I mean?

John Malkovitch is the voice of the Octopus and Benedict Cumberbatch the voice of the foxy leader of the 'North Wind'. See this film for no other reason than their acting. This is a great family film for all ages: truly. A family with a 5, a 10 and a 13 year old could enjoy this movie. It will also make you addicted to cheese puffs... (why weren't they selling them?)


Skipper is the kind of leader that we all want to see & be: fearless, always has a plan (even if he doesn't have one...!), appreciative of everyone's individual strengths and never gives up. Were the world to have more leaders like this plucky penguin!

The question to resolve for all leaders, is how do we get to be like this and remain like this? Leadership is often referred to as a journey: but it is not a straight journey from A to B. It twists and turns, goes back on itself and occasionally goes through tunnels with very little light, even at the end... Every leader has to know what is keeping them going.

What keeps you going?
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This is the sixty 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.

Dragon's gold fever

For much of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Thorin Oakenshield stumbles around gripped by "I'd rather have a gold & bejeweled shield" fever. This is not unlike a director and set of producers stretching a short children's book into an epic trilogy in hope they can make more money on it that they did with their previous project. And inventing an elf (Tauriel) for a bit of love interest (and extra footage) all seems a bit desperate to me.

I liked the first film of the trilogy and a few national treasure actors saved the second, but the third is just one long fight fest that gets all rather tedious. I can't speak of the acting as there is little of it, although there could have been more. We could have seen the transitions of Thorin brought to life with sharp scripting and good acting, for example. Fans will flock in their droves of course but please know that the Hobbit is actually a very sweet story about the journey of an anti-hero. Read the book!


Oddly, for a film all about battles, whilst command is on display, not much leadership is. I am sure it had to be there: how else do you get a bunch of dwarves (who would rather be in the pub telling stories), elves (who would rather be living hundreds of years in a dell somewhere) and orcs (who would murder their granny in a blink, to get what they want) to fight as a team against each other - for so long?

I can only imagine that their leaders must have drawn their attention to a) the gold b) someone else getting the gold c) heroism d) survival as a race and e) more gold - or variations and mixtures on those themes. Leadership is about harmonics: finding the words and actions that will resonate with your followers so that they will follow you. Whilst some people just seem to know these chimes (you know, the so called 'born leaders'), most of us have to diligently research and test them. This means listening, even to uncomfortable truths and feedback.

How is your research into the harmonics of your followers?
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This is the sixty sixth 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.