Monday, 17 November 2014

Magnificent will and lasting testament

I saw Tony Benn: Will and Testament at the Film Place in Buckingham. (It is not the kind of film that I would expect Cineworld to show, although I wish that they would.) As you might expect this is a biographical film about the late, great Tony Benn. Many people on the Left admire him as the one true socialist to ever obtain ministerial office in the UK. Many others (also on the Left) despise him as a loony that kept Labour from power during the dark days of Thatcherite rule. The Right have demonised him also, unsurprisingly.

What comes through in the movie is genial and wise old man who spent his life thinking about what were the right and wrong things to do. You may not always agree with his conclusions but, if you see the film, you cannot doubt his commitment to thinking deeply about the moral questions of our age. This is a reverential film about a historical figure who will one day have a statue in the halls of the Palace of Westminster.


Leaders cannot duck moral questions. We might think we can in the pursuit of better performance, higher efficiency and greater effectiveness but we would be deluding ourselves and those that we lead. Arguably, every leadership decision is a moral one: leaders are constantly juggling in whose interests certain decisions are made or not made.

In the film, Tony Benn talks about his lifelong commitment to fanning two flames: the flame of anger at the injustice in the world, and the flame of hope to make things better in the future. He said that he wanted his epitaph to be "he encouraged us". Shouldn't that a fitting epitaph for all leaders?

How do you encourage people?

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This is the sixty 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.

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