Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A study in senility

Mr Holmes is an acting master class, not just from Ian McKellen, as you might expect (and of course Laura Linney is just superb in her understated acting), but also from the young man on whom much of the film is focussed. Watch Milo Parker in years to come: he shows extraordinary depth in this film.

The film slowly patches together the story of what happened in Holmes' last case and subtly affirms the idea that he was a real person. We switch from a post war Holmes with increasing senility and a far younger one trying to solve a case. Prompted by his young 'Watson' and a few bees, Holmes gradually recovers the whole story and resolution to the mystery. A slow gentle film that will intrigue you.


The language in this film is a treat. Frankly I could have enjoyed the film just for the way in McKellen wraps his lips around the precise words he utters. Slowly, word by word, we see him tell the story as the fragments begin to reappear and coalesce in his mind.

Words are very, very important to a leader. A misplaced phrase here or an unwitting exaggeration there can neutralise what might be otherwise a strong set of ideas. We need words to express what we mean and the best leaders use words precisely to communicate their ideas, just as precisely. Words can blaze new directions and inspire new hope, new beginnings. The power of words should never be underestimated... Leaders should be poets.

How good is your wordcraft?

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This is the ninety 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.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Great in concept but...

I really wanted to be thrilled and delighted with Jurassic World but whilst it kept me on the edge of my seat... it irritated me. I will do the good stuff first: all the classic breathtaking horror of "are they about to be eaten alive" is there in abundance, and indeed some of the characters are summarily despatched in this way. The film pays due homage to its roots and if you like big snorting lizards steaming up the cinema screen, this is the film for you.

But some of the narrative was inconsistent, jerky and with a few clunky handbrake turns. "Oops, we have made this character just a bit too harsh, how can we soften them a bit... I know, we'll have a scene involving a dying brontosaurus and never mind there are slightly more pressing matters..." etc. I am being obtuse obviously, but see the film and you will get what I mean. I know it is a fantasy, but certain rules of human behaviour still have to followed... the narrative needs to be plausible. Nonetheless go and see this: you will be thrilled! (There is lots of embedded humourous references to other movies too...)


Friendship, loyalty even honour between beast and human is a key theme of this film. And understanding what is the real basis of those relationships is critical (you will see why).

Leadership, too, is all about relationships: loyalty, honour, commitment, friendship and all points in between. Some leaders seem to think it is all about just having a vision. It isn't. It is about conversations and building trust. People will comply with management but they will choose whether to be led or not.

Who have you chosen as a leader? Why? 

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This is the ninety 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.

The Woman from A.U.N.T.I.E.

Spy is glorious roller coaster romp of slap stick and wise cracking humour, of which you will not want to miss a second. The timing, the dialogue, the narrative, the self mocking satire ("it wasn't the car that was on fire, I was on fire" etc) are all top notch. This must have been a joy of movie to be part of the crew or cast. The sense of fun is squeaking out of every scene.

As someone who has adored spy movies from a very young age, it was great to see the anti-hero played so well by Melissa McCarthy (although she is not quite the all anti-hero you might think she is...!) Some great inverting of narrative tricks with some really well crafted action scenes as well. I do hope there is at least one sequel... Go see this!


Much of the humour in the film hinges on smashing stereotypes and challenging our superficial assumptions about what people can / can't/ should / shouldn't do. It shows the power of comedy to puncture inflated ideas about what is possible or correct.

Being able to make people laugh at life, and even at themselves (as Michael McIntyre is so good at too) is a golden skill for leaders to have. It is a skill not easy to develop, but it can be. We admire leaders who have a natural (?) ability to make us laugh because important things can be said more easily. But what if you are not a 'natural'? You could go on a course to learn... perhaps. How aware are you of what you say that does make people laugh... could you build on that?

Where is your comedy muscle, have you exercised it recently? 

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This is the ninety 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.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

When dates go wrong

Man Up is a quirky romcom in the old tradition in that it is really funny and is very romantic. I am not sure that Simon Pegg would have been my first casting choice but he makes a very good male lead and is well balanced by Lake Bell who acts her part very well.

This is a film that you will be able to happily watch on the small screen if you don't manage to see it in the cinema. There are some neat twists and turns in the narrative and some brilliant cameos (Rory Kinnear is deliciously creepy!). You will enjoy this film if you liked Notting Hill or Four Weddings.


This film is laced with serendipitous spontaneity (or would that be spontaneous serendipity?) of the kind that makes you smile. And I think we smile because occasionally this happens to us: only yesterday I bumped into my brother at a service station some distance away from each of our usual stamping grounds.

Of course one can apply some sort of cosmic interpretation  to such events (star crossed lovers etc.) or just regard it as delightful happen chance & make the most of it. Good leaders do this: they take every occurrence (good or bad) & endeavour to capitalise on it - lightly, spontaneously & cleverly. 

What is your serendipity quotient? 

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This is the ninety 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.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Earth cracking movie

San Andreas is a real blockbuster: as in city block busting! I chose to see this in 2D as I thought I would probably be either overwhelmed or too distracted to watch it in 3D or even 4DX (Cineworld MK). The special effects are convincingly breathtaking and quite what it feels like to watch this movie in San Francisco, I would love to know.

The story is (of course - aren't all blockbusters like this) schmultzy and the narrative is almost entirely given away in the trailer. You will have to suspend disbelief a little... well a lot actually: there is no point being picky (for example) about how a speed boat would glide quite so effortlessly through the devastated & flooded streets of SF. Just go with it, as the characters appear to (!) and enjoy the spectacle. And be glad you don't (hopefully) live on a fault line... (And see if you can spot Kylie...)


In leadership terms, what is great about this movie is the range of styles on show. There is the heroic Rock at the centre of it all but his style is complemented by the leadership that comes from knowledge, from loyalty, from compassion and from love. Each character represents a different kind of leadership and each is essential to the plot and its resolution.

..Not much different from any organisation where different kinds of leadership are needed too. The tragedy in some organisations is an almost myopic focus and admiration of only one or two styles. Just like in anything, we need diversity of leadership.

How do you as a leader develop styles of leadership different to your own?

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This is the ninety 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.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Perfectly pitched

Pitch Perfect 2 is a swell movie! You will swell with the glorious music on show: some really excellent 'a cappella' arrangements (indeed, I am probably about to purchase the soundtrack). You will swell with laughter: there are some peach lines, especially those delivered by the two commentators ("See, that is what happens when you allow girls to go to college!") And you will swell with joy as you watch how the Barden Bellas rediscover their mojo & harmony.

This is a second movie that is better than the first in my view. The comedic timing is terrific, cinematography exceptional and whilst the narrative is predictable, there are (just) enough twists and turns to keep you keen. Who run the world? Currently (as said elsewhere), it is the Barden Bellas! Go see this.


Movies should be 'feel good' in my opinion. Of course, there are great movies that remind you bitterly of what a terrible world this can be. But I enjoy movies like Pitch Perfect because they are crafted to make you believe that the world is often and could be far more a beautiful & harmonious place.

Leadership is about not only making people believe things can be better, but also shaping efforts to make it a reality. Unlike a movie, leadership goes on well beyond two hours. The art of leadership is in focusing upon the details and the broader, longer picture in order to bring about change.

As a leader, how are you choreographic and music production skills? Do you lead a choir or a cacophony?

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This is the ninety 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.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Just imagine

Tomorrowland is a wonderfully magical, positive and uplifting film that I urge you to go and see. OK, from a purist scifi perspective, the narrative does not quite hold together (which I cannot unpack without spoiling the movie) but that doesn't really matter. Just climb aboard the jet-pack to the future and imagine a better world.

Hugh Laurie has some of the best lines in the film, so listen out for those. George Clooney is fabulous of course and balanced well by Britt Robertson. But the real star who blew me away was Raffey Cassidy: she has such presence for a young girl. Delivering some of the lines she has to say next to George Clooney took amazing skill. For no other reason, go and see this movie just for her acting alone! This is Disney at their best: enchanting but with a powerful deep message of which we should all take heed.


Near the beginning of the film, there is a discussion about how the shape of lives is determined by which inner wolf we feed: the wolf of darkness & despair or the wolf of light and hope. This is probably the most critical challenge for any leader: how to temper optimism with realism without plummeting into pessimism. It is a fine line to tread. A very fine line...

The way in which leaders dream is often via the medium of mission statements. And the best one I know of, and which is very germane to this film, is JFK's "we will put a man on the moon in ten years". This statement was understandable, believable, communicable and usable while being inspiring all at the same time! Perhaps a good example of dreaming with reality in mind...

As a leader, how do you express your dreams?

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This is the ninety 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, 18 May 2015

Rock Paper Scissors

I am not sure if I managed to miss Top Five when it first came out or it has only just hit Milton Keynes. Whatever is the case: this is a transcendentally honest and raw movie with some of the most moving dialogue I have heard in a long while. In my view, ignore any other reviews to the contrary: go and see this movie!

Chris Rock plays a man in search of himself while being interviewed by a journalist also in search of herself. I would compare this film to Birdman (in its loose autobiographical narrative) but in the way I found that film almost pretentious, Top Five is authentic to its heart. It felt more real, more urgent, more compelling. And it is comedic and funny in a way that Birdman was awkward and uncomfortable.


This is a film that is rigorously honest in its depiction of the seedier and more cynical sides of celebritydom including "a kiss isn't real unless it's on camera". As the internet & digital TV expands to encompass the growing legion of celebrities, how many would have the confidence to be quite so precise in their self-dissection as Chris Rock has been in this movie. How many leaders would be prepared to be so disclosing?

The first rule of leadership is be honest with yourself: what kind of leader are you and what do you aspire to be? What are you talents and what are your deficits? How will you build on and tackle them respectively? How will you keep yourself honest, even when those around you are (maybe) not telling you the whole truth. Remember, leadership cannot exist in a vacuum: leadership without interaction and impact is nothing.

Honestly... how are you doing?

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This is the ninety 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, 17 May 2015

Truly, madly, deeply

I am somewhat bemused that Mad Max: Fury Road has been criticised for being feminist propaganda...(!) nonetheless (or perhaps because!) this is a film that you must go and see. It has sublime cinematography, a transcendent score, special effects that will take your breath away and a narrative that has integrity. This is a story that holds together well, despite the anarchic dystopian future is depicts.

It would have been so easy to just do a simple remake of the original but instead we are treated to a feast of new characters and subtle acting that will draw you into the Namibian desert. Of course, this movie will not be to everyone's taste, but if you like to be transported to bizarre futures which test what it means to be human, this is a film for you!

  
There are many films that depict leadership despots who manage to control large numbers people through fear and restricting access to scarce resources. This film is no exception and the character concerned is treated as a deity by many: a deity who can do no wrong and who is seen as invulnerable. I won't tell you what happens of course...

But what happens to such leaders in real life? The sad fact is that there are many leaders who do use fear to control and who do deploy resources in ways that are more about rewarding disciples rather than making business investments. Such leadership might work for a while, even several years, but in the end creativity and commitment are crushed out of the organisation. And, as a consequence, so is overall performance. The challenge is spotting this early on before it becomes too late to save the organisation.

As a leader, how much fear do you inspire... (even without necessarily wishing to)?

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This is the ninetieth 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, 12 May 2015

Not spooky enough

Spooks: The Greater Good was a disappointment. I loved the TV series and this was... just like another episode from the TV series... I expected something more. Bigger twists, bigger explosions, bigger locations, bigger... just something more than another episode. And the fact that I understood it almost all the way through, suggested to me a plot line that could have been more sophisticated.

You won't be bored: it rolls along at a fair crack. The acting is competent, believable and compelling. But, they didn't have much to work with. Sorry. It is not often I slate a film quite as much as this. Maybe if I didn't know the TV series so well, I would be more upbeat. This could have been so much better.


In this age of big data, evidence based practice and more management & leadership qualifications than you can shake a stick at, it is intriguing just how much we still rely on our gut feel, our nous, our hunches, our intuition... to guide us. I have always said, that if emotions were logical, we wouldn't call them emotions. And thus it is with the narrative of this film: it is based on ethics multiplied by emotion & intuition multiplied by wizened experience multiplied by fear.

Leadership needs all those qualities too. And in large quantities. And the sum total is called judgement. And often this judgement needs to be made in rapid time.

How is your faculty for judgement these days?

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This is the eighty 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.

Still here, still changing

The Age of Adaline is in a similar genre as the The Time Traveller's Wife: scifi lite with a good dose of romanticism. I know that makes me sound cynical but I enjoyed this film. However, despite the excellent acting by the lead player (playing both a young and old woman in the same body) and a stellar cast - this is only a good (not great) film. As a romantic film, it didn't quite tear at my heart strings and as a scifi movie is was a bit clunky & unimaginative.

As a package, it just about works... but there are films like this that work better. I loved Frequency for example. A bit more romantic back story was needed, and bit more scfi magic would have added an extra (and needed) something to this movie. But you will enjoy it.


Good leadership delivers a sense of stability and well as hunger for change. No leader can stand still and not age: leadership is about being here now. And the now can throw all manner of challenges, some expected, some come in completely from the left field. The art of leadership is finding the 'always' in the things that are always changing, and finding the energy for change within the always.

In this respect, modern leaders are discovering what Mao Zedong talked about in his approach to continuous revolution: The idea of continuous revolution implied that the function of the Communist Party was ...to enable and guarantee a process of development which gave a Marxist form to popular aspirations and to supervise a continuous process of change. If the world should know anything, it is to never underestimate the Chinese. Never forget that they were talking about handling change long before the rest of the world.

How Chinese is your leadership?

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This is the eighty 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.

Green & pleasant idyll?

Far from the Madding Crowd is an evocative pastoral fantasy that will make you yearn for days gone by, when the harvest fields were filled with men in smocks and women in flowing dresses. When children played amongst the haystacks in the setting sunlight. When landed gentry would sit down with farmworkers over a flagon of cider and some fresh bread...

I suspect the 'olden days' were not quite as idyllic as this film depicts, but we can believe and dream that one day this will return. And we can also have faith that true love will eventually find its path. The script and acting are contemporary (one can almost imagine Gabriel Oak texting Bathesheba Everdene: "had enough of your ways, am off. lol.") But this doesn't detract from a beautiful enchanting film that will stay with you for a very long time.


Miss Everdene, like her contemporary sister, Katniss portrays a tough, unforgiving and steely leadership but with compassion, understanding and love (and what looks to be the same leather jacket). This is the kind of leadership that wins people's loyalty and respect. It is also she, who jumps into the sheep dip to show her determination to be asking only that we she is prepared to do herself.

As the United Kingdom wakes up after a bruising, tribal and polarising general election, a lot of Everdene type leadership is going to be needed. Otherwise rifts will widen into chasms, and frustration may well turn into anger. Both head and heart leadership will need to be evident: and the public will judge the capability and authenticity of their leaders without favour.

How well do you balance the head and heart of your leadership?

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This is the eighty 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.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Golden film

Woman in Gold is a miraculous & iridescent film that will delight and fascinate you. It tells the true story of Jewish woman who fled Austria just before the outbreak of WW2 and her quest to have her paintings restored to her. One of the paintings is one of the most famous in the world: Woman in Gold / Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Justav Klimt. This film is as layered as the painting with superb acting (as always) from Helen Mirren and the rest of the crew.

It features flashbacks to the time of the Anschluss in a seamless way, that could so easily have been very clunky. I didn't know the end of the story, although I assume many who see this film will. But whichever way, I don't think that matters since there is still much to intrigue and explain about the history of the painting and the subsequent litigation. A beautiful film.


Films often feature stories of 'little' people who persist, against the odds, to achieve something against 'big' corporations - or in this case - whole countries! It is an old theme of leadership dating back to Robbie the Bruce & the spider: keep trying and you will succeed etc. But of course what these stories fail to report are all the cases where persistence did not pay off! I have no idea what is the ratio of success to failure is for people who persist with some campaign or plan or something....

But the art of persistence in leadership terms is about knowing when to carry on and when to quit. This is the real trick and essentially it is a gamble because if you do choose to quit, you will never really know whether that was the right decision or not.

How do you know when to quit or when to persist?

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This is the eighty 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.

Westerns don't date

Back in April, I saw two films back to back: The Salvation and John Wick. Although separated by 150 years, they both tell similar stories of revenge for evil acts done. Whilst the body count in John Wick is significantly higher than in The Salvation, both feature almost relentless violence and murderous strategy. Although in true western tradition, the amount of bloody schlock is kept to a minimum as they both play out as (almost) 20 year old computer games. (I understand the modern day ones are far worse!)

A slightly gentler film, The Salvation is set in the 1870s where two of the main characters are former Danish soldiers. There is even some dialogue in Danish! (John Wayne must be turning in his grave!) The plot simmers & sparks like a fuse on a stick of dynamite and successfully deploys some narrative twists to keep the watcher alert. But as you would expect, there is an explosive conclusion. Similarly John Wick deploys a moody Keanu Reeves tracking down the bad guys in an ever escalating spiral of payback. Although set in modern days, its western parable form is easily recognisable.

These are not date movies but the tension, the photography and the acting make them both very watchable.



These two films got me thinking about whether leaders should ever feel vengeful. There are many more films than these two where the 'good guys' are involved in delivering a rather personal form of justice to those that have wronged them - aka revenge. Straw Dogs comes to mind for example. But in real life, should leaders ever seek to wreak revenge?

In one way, and this answer may surprise you, the answer is yes. By this I mean that if an organisation has been damaged by some external agent and people have suffered: then it seems only fitting that the leader of that organisation should seek restoration. I am not advocating violence of course. But I am suggesting that leadership includes robustly defending the integrity of the organisation you lead. It is then a question of judgement and ethics, just how far you go!

When did you last defend the integrity of your organisation?

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This is the eighty fourth and 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.

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.