Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Westerns don't date

Back in April, I saw two films back to back: The Salvation and John Wick. Although separated by 150 years, they both tell similar stories of revenge for evil acts done. Whilst the body count in John Wick is significantly higher than in The Salvation, both feature almost relentless violence and murderous strategy. Although in true western tradition, the amount of bloody schlock is kept to a minimum as they both play out as (almost) 20 year old computer games. (I understand the modern day ones are far worse!)

A slightly gentler film, The Salvation is set in the 1870s where two of the main characters are former Danish soldiers. There is even some dialogue in Danish! (John Wayne must be turning in his grave!) The plot simmers & sparks like a fuse on a stick of dynamite and successfully deploys some narrative twists to keep the watcher alert. But as you would expect, there is an explosive conclusion. Similarly John Wick deploys a moody Keanu Reeves tracking down the bad guys in an ever escalating spiral of payback. Although set in modern days, its western parable form is easily recognisable.

These are not date movies but the tension, the photography and the acting make them both very watchable.

These two films got me thinking about whether leaders should ever feel vengeful. There are many more films than these two where the 'good guys' are involved in delivering a rather personal form of justice to those that have wronged them - aka revenge. Straw Dogs comes to mind for example. But in real life, should leaders ever seek to wreak revenge?

In one way, and this answer may surprise you, the answer is yes. By this I mean that if an organisation has been damaged by some external agent and people have suffered: then it seems only fitting that the leader of that organisation should seek restoration. I am not advocating violence of course. But I am suggesting that leadership includes robustly defending the integrity of the organisation you lead. It is then a question of judgement and ethics, just how far you go!

When did you last defend the integrity of your organisation?


This is the eighty fourth and fifth of my 2014/2015 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I began doing this (with an update at the end of 2014). 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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