Movies and Leadership – Who Grabs You?

When a scene is well written, directed and acted, we can feel targeted or triggered. We are treated or entreated — we are drawn to something that evokes what’s best in us. These dramatic figures are like a gift to us, and they hit each of us in our own way, in our own spot.

It’s been almost 40 years since I saw The Deer Hunter , but I still want to be like DeNiro who draws a line of tough love in the sand, refusing to give his extra hunting boots to his buddy Stan, because the latter is always forgetting things and needs to learn a lesson. DeNiro seems to think Stan and his other buddies should know what it means when he holds up a rifle shell and says, “This is this.” They look at him likes he’s crazy, but to this day that line says to me: “This is this. Talk the talk. But walk the walk.”

The Steve Jobs movie had a line that shook me deeply, too. Jobs asks Joanna, his right-hand woman, “what’s wrong?” and she replies, “What’s been wrong with me for nineteen years. I have been a witness, and I tell you I’ve been complicit.” I won’t undermine the movie by sharing the full context and the result, but when she makes the connection to see that being a “witness” made her “complicit” demonstrated wide-eyed courage I want one day to have. Finally, in Bridge of Spies, James Donovan played by Tom Hanks is a “stoikiy muzhik,” a Russian meaning I cannot tell you without ruining the movie altogether. But you will almost surely want to be one — a stoikiy muzhik — after you see this movie. (I strongly recommend both movies!)

What strikes me is these characters strike me. Strike me to be my best self.

I’d love for you to take a minute to click the “comment on this post” at the bottom of this email and share with my readers and me the film character/scene that comes to your mind as an invitation to stretch into greatness as you enter this week to

Lead with your best self.

  • How about the power of transformation and doing the right thing as illustrater by Henry (Harrison Ford) in Regarding Henry, or the great scene between Frodo and Gandolf when they are lost in the mines of Moria (Fellowship of the Ring):
    Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
    Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.



    This is my favorite clip on Leadership. Burt Lancaster as Judge Ernst Janning in Judgment at Nuremberg. In this case, it is the failure of leadership of those that know better. You spend a lot of time on examples of good or great leaders. Oftentimes, however, we learn the most from those that fail at Leadership.


    David Allen

  • I have been on a Civil War tour with the Blue Gray Education Society in Alabama. Two of us worshipped on All Saints Day at a prominent Protestant church where, when asked what we were doing in town, were introduced to descendants of well-known Confederate leaders. Our tour had ended, and enroute to Demopolis, City of the People, where my Yankee great-great grandfather and his brother mustered out in Sept. 1865, I stopped in Monroeville and stood in awe of the Courthouse at dusk. Having read Go Set a Watchman (Isaiah) just before the trip, there is no question about the movie that comes to mind. Harper Lee’s books and these last few days remind me that demonizing those with whom we disagree, casting things is stark good and evil language, is not helpful, and a lesson to take to heart and practice in an election year.

  • In the climatic scene from Absence of Malice, Paul Neuman is being sized up by the US Assistant District Attorney artfully played by Wilfred Brimily. After confirming that “everyone was just doing their job”, Neuman asks who he can see about the death of friend. Brimily responds, “Their ain’t no one to see about that…wish their was”!

  • Russell Crowe’s commander in Master and Commander. As a matter of fact, when I watched the film, my mind kept going to Dan and his counsel on leadership.

  • Almost every scene with Gene Hackman in the movie “Hoosiers”. I am not a huge basketball fan, but his dialog and delivery are inspiring

  • Ferris Bueller: “life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

  • I like to think to the multiple scenes in the first Christian Bale Batman movie where he transforms upon his return to Gotham City. What strikes me is the young and rich Bruce Wayne who has to hide something, even if it hurts him to do so.

    Connecting this to a regular person (or less extreme, not billionaire super-hero), I find that life throws everyone challenges and sometimes we can complain to others or look for attention when challenges strike, but to take strength and understand that we all have troubles and to sometimes hold back from complaining, makes us better.

    Personally, I intend to work for a large corporation, and I am sure one day, like Bruce Wayne I will have something difficult to deal with in life that is better kept private, albeit it won’t be as extreme as in Wayne’s case.

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