Wednesday, 15 January 2014

12 Years a Slave: the myriad of small acts

12 Years a Slave is destined to be one of those films that clings to your soul and becomes part of the way we see the world. It is a stunningly courageous film is so many ways: unflinching in its depiction of slavery and tireless in its cinematography. The intensity and depth of the acting from every single person in the movie is humbling. Even though like the Titanic, we all know (roughly) how it ends, the narrative grips you in a way that made me hear my breathing and that of everyone around me. I spent the film wishing, so wishing, this had never been true: the same way that I watched Schindler's List.

There are moments in the story of extreme brutality. In a way, I was more saddened by the smaller, almost casual, acts of cruelty & inhumanity that filled the gaps between the larger excesses. It was the myriad of these smaller acts that I think did much to enslave the minds of the slaves.

So (with a bit of a handbrake turn, I know) as leaders, we may think that we only have to get right the big set pieces: where we can showcase our good leadership.  Of course, leaders need to be able to front staff meetings, set strategy that draws on key influences and so forth. But most leaders are known by and remembered for the small acts of listening, enthusiasm, kindness and courtesy. It is also in the myriad of 'small' actions that leaders take which evidence the leadership that counts.

What small acts of leadership will people remember you by today? Will they feel liberated (and emancipated?) to innovate and deliver superlative results as a consequence?


This is the seventh of my new 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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