Saturday, 11 January 2014

Railway reconciliation

I saw The Railway Man last night. It is a poignant, harrowing and uplifting true story of one man's quest to end his own personal war. The acting is superb: understated and authentic. This is not a film for a fun night out. But it is a film if you want to reflect on what war does to people, and on how those effects last years and decades afterwards. It is a film about heroism, brutality and despair. Go see it.

I have visited the war graves in Thailand and been to the war museum at Kanchanaburi. I have also travelled for 3 hours on the train from one end to near the Burmese border. It was a memorable day for me. To cite the wikipedia entry:
Forced labour was used in its construction. About 180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Of these, around 90,000 Asian labourers (mainly romusha) and 12,399 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. The dead POWs included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans and a smaller number of Canadians and New Zealanders
The film brought back many memories of my visit to the 'death railway'.

The film is brimmed full of leadership, good and bad. I could write about anyone of a number of themes. The one I will highlight is that becoming a leader is a personal journey that no one can do for you. But (and this is a huge but) you are wise not to do it alone.

Being a leader is, almost by definition, a lonely job. You have to make decisions about your own fate and those whom you lead. And deciding not to act (and allow...) is as much a decision as deciding to intervene and how to intervene. These are decisions that a leader can only make alone. But some leaders interpret that as having to do everything alone. And what the film shows us is that Mr Lomax can only make his lonely journey with the support and love of his wife and friends. He is both alone and never alone.

So as a leader, who helps you to be both alone and not alone?


This is the sixth 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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