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?

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?

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.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Bear with me

One of my highlights of childhood Christmases was my regular gift of the new Blue Peter annual. Inside this treasure trove of delights was always a special Paddington story involving the crotchety next door neighbour, the hapless Browns and the bear with a hard stare. All of this is wonderfully transferred to the big screen in Paddington.

This is a gorgeous tale, written more for adults than children in my opinion. The people laughing loudest were the adults in the cinema appreciating the puns and embedded cinematic references. But mostly, under the fur, it is a story about migration. It celebrates the capacity of the British public to welcome not only a Peruvian immigrant but one from another species into their hearts and families. Do not go and see this if you are a UKIP supporter or holding on to some little Englander xenophobic view of the world. But do go and see this if you want to be charmed by a calamitous bear with a heart of South American silver and gold!

At one point in the film, Paddington is accused of lying which is seen as the worst possible betrayal of the trust he has been shown by the Brown family. (He isn't lying, of course!) This reminded me of the most important aspect of solid leadership: telling the truth.

Yes, leaders may sometimes have to be a little economical and not say everything that they know. And at other times, a small amount of gilding is probably allowed. But outright lying and deliberately telling a falsehood is something no good leader will ever do. (A problem comes when leaders are lying to themselves and lose track of what is true and what is not...)

Have you ever been lied to by a leader you had learned to respect? What then happened?


This is the sixty 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.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

With HOPE in your heart

Since discovering 'Adopt-a-word' (a way of supporting the 'I Can' charity which helps children and young people to communicate), I have chosen a word for the forthcoming year. You can read about my previous words here. For this coming year, I have chosen:

Why hope?

Because, quite simply, hope is what keeps me going. And I suspect I am not alone in that. When I wrestle with my own personal, professional and political challenges, it is my hope that things can and will get better, that keeps my chin up. If I did not have hope, I would give up now. Hope is the basis of my actions to build a better world, (and be the dad, husband, son, family member, friend... human being that I wish to be).

Sometimes, I feel daunted by just how much hope I have for my family, my friends and the wider world. I feel daunted because there is so much to hope for: a world in which everyone gets the opportunity to dream and to have the resources to realise those dreams and ambitions. And when bad things happen in the world that are taking us in the opposite direction, I have to ramp up my hope some more.

Every now and then, I come across shining examples of where other people are committing to hope as well: hope for a better, fairer and more peaceful world. And this feels good: my 'hope batteries' get a recharge.

And in the last 24 hours, we have had this in bucketfuls! The tragic events in Sydney have been broadcast around the world and three people have died. Others have been seriously wounded. (My thoughts are with them and their close ones.) It would have been all too easy for this news to be turned into hate for people who follow Islam. Instead, a random story of compassion (originally not posted for public consumption) has grabbed the headlines and the #Illridewithyou hashtag has taken over international social media. For me this represents a determined faith in the unity of all and solidarity with everyone: never say for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. The #Illridewithyou hashtag is a defiant act of love against those who would use the Sydney siege to foster hate & fragmentation.

The hashtag is also a act of hope: hope for a world in which peace, tolerance and humanity thrive and grow, (while violence, hate and bigotry wither away).

And so with hope in our hearts, none of us ever have to walk alone...

May I wish you abundant seasonal greetings, whatever faith or none that you have, and I hope that you will join me in hoping for an amazing 2015 for everyone in the world!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Horrible leadership

Horrible Bosses 2 was an inevitable but slightly contrived sequel that I saw mainly because it fitted in with schedule. (I really wanted to see Paddington but I arrived too late!) But I am glad I did: several laugh out loud moments made this an enjoyable frolic through an increasingly ludicrous story.

The cameos by the likes of Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx add some real spice to the movie (although I think Jennifer Aniston has still to discover her post Friends ouvre...). Overall it delivers a successful comedic punch. So suspend disbelief, forget the first film and enjoy this one!

As this is a film about horrible bosses, the film is bursting with examples of poor management, lousy leadership and unethical business practices! But this blog likes to highlight the good leadership themes contained withing movies so I will focus on the role played by Kevin Spacey.

His character is a little rough around the edges but he is very clear and concise in his business dealings with the three hapless friends at the centre of the film. He is intense and they all know where he stands, albeit a little bruised by his company!

Are you as clear, concise and intense as Kevin Spacey's character?


This is the sixty 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.