Wednesday, 20 August 2014

What if there is no question mark (...?)

I spent the first few moments of What If wondering why there was no question mark at the end of the title. Was this just another (Canadian) way of saying whatever? Was the other half of the title missing, so why not miss out the question mark too? Anyway, then I got wrapped up in the movie and began wondering how it would all end. How would this movie take fresh look at an old topic: can a (straight) man and woman just be friends or... Harry met Sally yada yada (?)

Well the good news is that this film will keep you guessing up until its closing minutes. I dare you to predict how it all ends. This is a fine script, delivered authentically by the main characters. It is well cast, photographed and scored. It has cute and awkward moments in good measure. The film will leave you wistful, philosophic, hopeful and twinkling about fidelity and love. Go see it. Another film to make you smile.

The plot of the film centres on truth and honesty: are we being honest with a person if we don't tell them the whole truth? There are always plenty of rational reasons why a leader may not always tell the whole story and feel obliged to keep something back. And this conflicts with a broader principle of being a truthful & straightforward leader. Or is this what makes a leader a leader: the ability to balance honesty with discretion?

Someone once said (was it Groucho?) that if you can fake authenticity then you have got it made. And we have all observed leaders who appear to be able to do this and yet we still want to follow them: as if we are prepared to collude in the deception that we are not being told all that we need to be told... Perhaps this is because we know (or think we know) that being 100% open, honest, truthful is just not tenable in many situations. And then do we go a step further and stop being wholly honest with ourselves? When does less than 100% honesty turn from being discrete, politic & careful into mendacious, manipulative and corrosive?

What if we don't know when we are crossing that boundary?


This is the forty 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.

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