Two Great Leadership Movies – summer’s best

If you haven’t seen them, go!

I hate it when people spoil movies by telling me a lot, so I won’t do that here.

I’ll just tell you what you’ve seen in previews, or what will not take away from the core story.

Straight Outta Compton.  I wrote a post years ago and included it in my diversity chapter in my book Everyday Leadership.  It was about SWCG’s or “straight white Christian guys,” and how we tend to think we are “the norm.” We’re not evil or anything. We just don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know that we’re generally privileged, any more than a fish knows she’s in water, until she finds herself in the bottom of the boat, using her tail and powerful backbone and wondrous gills — in utter uselessness.

This movie had me flopping in the boat!  I was without tail, vertebrae and gills, but not without un-examined stories that were so utterly useless for understanding this movie and our culture.  Like most people of my race and age, I totally did not get Rap, especially the explosive late-80’s-hatched stuff with N-words and B-words and ubiquitous references to guns and drugs.  I took it on my terms, with my stories, values, judgments, etc. Well, director F. Gary Gray did this awesome work of inviting me in to his movie, past my story lines and morals, to see in a new way.  I’ll just say that if “black lives matters” seems to you like, “well, duh, of course, all lives matter,” then you really should see this movie. I can nearly promise that phrase won’t mean the same thing when you walk out.  And you’ll feel better for it.

Inside Out.  For lighter but no less deep stuff, treat yourself to Inside Out before this Pixar gem disappears from theaters. I wrote last week about how we have mixed feelings and mixed thoughts about nearly everything, and this animated movie dramatizes that by taking apart our thoughts and feelings so we can see them.  Like other great “kids’ movies,” this one speaks to kids but is layered with content and humor that only adults can get.  And the multiplicity of meaning continues because the story suggests in a way that seems indisputable that within each of us is a chorus of separate audiences, thinking — and especially feeling —  multiple and inconsistent things.  It is full of implications, not only the powerful ones of appreciating how twisted inside our kids can get, but also how conflicted we can feel. It will evoke the compassionate leader within you!

If you are one who needs reviews, you’ll find overwhelming critical and popular support* for these two movies that can really help us all to

Lead with our best self!


* Straight Outta Compton scores a 90 on Rotten Tomatoes and a 95 from their audiences (my moviegoing kids always like the “audiences” better than the critics’ scores).  Insight Out from Pixar goes 98/90.

  • Hi Dan,
    Now you’ve got me thinking. I had concerns about the NWA movie. While I want to understand more of this culture, I’d heard that the issue of the main characters’ violence against women was kind of swept under the rug. I didn’t want to support a movie that did that. Supporting women is a major issue to me, and rap culture seems to embrace misogyny so much. What’s your take on that?
    As for Inside Out, I can’t wait to buy it on DVD and watch it with my grandchildren to see how their viewpoints are different from mine. (One is 8 and the other is just 2). Should be amazing to watch them as they watch it!
    Thanks for giving us ponderables each week,

    • Dave,

      The awesome Ava DuVernay, director of Selma, posted this quote on Twitter:

      “To be a woman who loves hip hop at times is to be in love with your abuser. Because the music was and is that. And yet the culture is ours.”

      Be well,

  • My friend Dave said it all. I am new (due to Dave) to your post, and I probably will become addicted to it. Obviously, your fault! Looking forward to more.

    Euni Rose

  • Hi Dan,

    Thanks for writing this. I can’t wait to see Straight Outta Compton. This, especially the East Coast genre, is my music. But so is the music of NYC’s CBGB, Van Halen, The Police, Luther, Culture Club, Casey Kasem’s Top 40, Gladys and Michael.

    I’m curious about your thoughts on how a new perspective might impact leadership? I learned very early on that my ability to code-switch — including into the language of “SWCGs” — was not matched frequently. So I learned to conform.

    I have met a few “SWGCs” whom, even if they could not code-switch themselves, recognized when members of their teams were doing it and valued the ability as well as the perspectives. I have much respect for them and have learned from them.

    In a time where diversity in tech is a dominant dialogue stream, I wonder about your thoughts on norms and leadership. What are some ways that leadership might evolve to reflect the different norms that you mentioned, and should leadership even evolve?

    Apologies if you get this twice — wi-fi issues!

    Many thanks,

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