Leadership is everywhere and there are leadership tips we can glean from so many places––often when you’re least expecting it. Character driven books or movies often house inspiring leaders. A protagonist in a well-written movie will show some great leadership skills as they move through their hero’s journey––a great place to find some out-of-the-box lessons.
Here are 5 of my favourite lessons in leadership I’ve learned over the years from five very different movies.
- You can be a leader without an army: Jerry Maguire
As Jerry walks out of his office post-mission statement, jubilant from passionately unleashing his values on an unassuming office full of colleagues, he makes a call for the believers to follow him.
“Who’s coming with me?”
He leaves the room with a goldfish and a quiet accountant he never met before. 1 human and one fish––doesn’t quite spell leader in our conventional minds. But this was probably one of the most prominent displays of leadership in cinema history, and the reason so many viewers connected with the character.
You see a leader doesn’t need to be assigned to the position, nor do they need anyone assigned to follow them. One important thing we learn from this film is that Jerry had us at hello because he showed initiative, innovation, ethics, loyalty and, most of all, courage. All the qualities of a leader.
And, just like the girl and the goldfish, we all so strongly thought about following him out of that office too, even without the promise of money, or a bowl to swim in for a while.
- If you build it, they will come: Field Of Dreams
Maybe you saw this classic eighties Kevin Costner baseball flick, maybe you didn’t. The story’s a bit ridiculous; a man (Kevin) wants to host ghosts of dead baseball players in his backyard, so he builds a baseball stadium in the hope they all come back from the dead to play.
A pinnacle moment is when he is doubting his efforts, Kevin has a dream. In his dream, his dead father whispered to him,
“If you build it, they will come.”
He builds it. People help him. The ghosts come and play.
As ridiculous as the story line is, the lesson is not ridiculous in the slightest.
Leadership, if you have a vision, something you want to build––whether people can see what you see or not–– is about selling that dream to the non-believers.
Our job as leaders is to build that dream and inspire the others around you to come and play. You just got to build it.
- Guide and be guided by values: Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich is the ultimate working-class hero. She proves true leaders aren’t built from class or hierarchies. True leaders are made from grit and determination, and in this case, through leading strongly by your own personal values.
In the film, based on a true and inspiring story, Ms Brockovich overcame many hurdles by educating herself, standing up for her rights and sticking to her principles. Her achievements were driven by her own personal value system––that no matter how disadvantaged you are, you have a right to health.
The lesson here is; to be heard and to lead a victorious effort in business or in life, regardless of where you come from, the strength of your cause is determined by your passion and the values behind them.
Know them. Hold them dear. Communicate them. And great leadership will come.
- Share your vision: Moneyball
There are SO many leadership lessons in Moneyball. A true story of a brilliant, innovative leader who takes a problem and solves it by having the guts to do something completely different to the status quo. But the strong lesson I gleaned from this film was in the early stages of the film. Before the success comes.
When major league baseball team manager, Billy Beane, starts to change his game play, by signing up players to the that aren’t the normal––the “superstars” other teams are signing up, he fails to share his unique strategy with the team’s coach before the first game. The coach ignores the manager’s instructions and plays the team the way he is used to coaching, and they lose.
Manager Billy Beane had a very specific play in mind when he signed up each of his new team members. If not played like in that specific way the team aren’t a strong team. But he failed to share his vision and the outcome was, indeed, failure.
Big lesson! Your leadership strength is only determined by your communication.
Which leads nicely into the last lesson…
- Use emotion to engage: Made In Dagenham
In one of my favourite transformational leadership roles, driving political change and equal pay for women in 1968, the character Rita begins as a reluctant leader. Watching this unassuming leadership unfold is inspiring.
With leadership almost forced upon her, Rita encompasses her responsibilities by using an emotional connection to the cause. And her unique strength as a leader comes in being able to hone that emotion and use it to engage her team, and her resistors.
In one of the most memorable scenes, Rita uses her personal story to captivate her people. In a public address she relays the story of a soldier she knew who committed suicide and relates his story to the principles of her own struggle as an activist fighting for women’s rights to equal pay. In doing this she builds on the common ground between the working class, regardless of gender, to initiate a strong following. And when she has completely engaged her audience, she expels an emotional call to action.
Leadership at its finest.