5 movies that will make you a better leader

These engaging stories with strong characters will empower and inspire you to rise to the next level. By Satyaki Sarkar

Leaders don’t simply become so because of the power or the position they hold, but rather through their actions, behaviour, and the way they handle themselves, their work, and everyone else. Renowned American author and speaker, John C Maxwell once said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” The famous quote reflects the essentially ideal qualities that a good leader should have. And while books about leadership are aplenty, very few of us are aware of the invaluable leadership lessons that movies can teach us as well. Here are some popular movies that actually teach you a lessson or two about good leadership.


1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
This 1957 movie is widely renowned for teaching a few powerful lessons. The movie follows the epic confrontation between British Colonel Nicholson and his captor Colonel Saito. While Nicholson commands the respect and admiration of his men through his confidence, sacrifice, understanding, and professional behaviour, Saito attempts to do so through ineffective brutality and fear. The battle of wills and determination that Nicholson goes through to complete the Kwai bridge project, and ending up realising that he has done so for his enemy, is a brilliant study of the style and consequences of leadership.


2. Lincoln
This iconic movie portrays the last few months of American President Abraham Lincoln’s term, showcasing his struggle in obtaining the votes to pass the 13th Amendment, in order to abolish slavery forever. He was pressed for time as he had to achieve his goal before the end of the war or lose the opportunity for good. It was through his sharp wit, wisdom, and relationships that he was able to finally win over the members of the Congress, and inspire them to fight for the right cause. The movie teaches us that leadership and influence is not just about power and position, but also about behaviour and relationships. It is through their ability to build and maintain relationships that leaders can persuade them and influence outcomes.


3. The King’s Speech
This brilliant movie depicts the story of England’s King George VI, who stuttered since he was a child. After his older brother renounces the throne, the responsibility falls upon George to assume the responsibility and lead the country. It was through the help of an unorthodox speech therapist that he finally manages to overcome his problem and confidently lead Britain in the 1939 war with Germany. This teaches us that no matter who we are, we all have personal challenges we need to overcome. We should not let those cripple us, however, but remain humble enough to ask for help and focus on overcoming them.


4. Moneyball
This celebrated American sports drama tells the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, who must come up with a way to build a successful, winning team with the most deplorable payroll of all in professional baseball. He decides to hire Peter Brand, a recent Yale graduate, after being impressed with him. In turn, Peter stuns everyone by using statistical analysis to help Beane develop a stellar team. The lesson here is that at times a leader might need to break the rules to change obsolete thinking, instead of blindly parroting others. He/she must conduct their own research, understand the problem, strengths, and come up with a strategy to win, using unorthodox means, if need be.


5. Citizen Kane
Voted by many to be the greatest film of all time, Citizen Kane depicts the rise and fall of infamous newspaper mogul, Charles Foster Kane. During his life Kane managed to amass wealth, women, and prestige in plenty, but in spite of that he ended up dying a lonely old man. Throughout his life, he kept running after the elusive love that he never found, only to end up with nothing, in spite of having everything. His story is a lesson in having a good emotional balance, and emphasises the need for fulfilment apart from work and material happiness. 

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