September 19, 2017

Several Best Picture Nominees Strike Close to Home with Lessons of Leadership

The year 2010 was certainly a year at the box office.  I saw a few dreadfully boring movies…one that I even left in the middle of, but I saw three that left me in awe, breathless and painfully aware of the deep rooted problems we are having in our world today.

I want to address the three that struck me the most deeply.

The King’s Speech: I drove to Durham, NC, with my friend Camie Marion to see this film at a smaller theater before it came to the larger movie houses because of its rave reviews.  If you were to read some of the more cynical reviews of the movie, you would never go.  But, I am going to be the first to see a movie the challenges of a severe speech impediment could have on the eventual success or failure of a future king…that of Albert Frederick Arthur George (played by Colin Firth).  There were times in the movie that I felt that life was either just bitter or sweet…nothing in the middle.  Yet in the end King Albert Frederick Arthur George (after months of work with a speech therapist) is able to rise to the occasion to deliver a speech to England during one of the worst periods in world history…World War II and the Great Depression.

I believe all leaders should see this movie to witness what hard work, the help of specialists and a “never giving up” attitude can do for success.  The King’s Speech is not a fable.  It is based on a very true story of a king who felt he would never be able to lead the people of England because of a stammer.  But the question is…How often are we all just “giving up” these days? I would say more often than not.  I know that our political leaders say they are “trying”, but I feel a sense of apathy in our country.  As I watched Firth play this role, I felt this King’s anguish, doubt and embarrassment.   He was basically hiding that he had a speech impediment, was known as a “sickly” child and here he was…now the kind of England and had to overcome a stammer so that the people of England would have the faith they needed in their leader to guide them through one of the darkest periods in history.

Leadership Lesson:

“When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place.”
~Unknown

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The Black Swan. This movie literally gave me nightmares.  It was a dark, very twisted tale of a young woman, played by Natalie Portman (who did receive best actress for her role in the film) who won the lead role in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. I am not a professional ballerina, but I did dance for about five years in my middle school age, and this role is one of the most demanding in the classical ballet repertoire, and Portman played the role to the nth degree.

The sad part of the movie brings to light that millions of young women are binging and purging and starving themselves literally to death.  It brings to light that using drugs and sex are merely tools to help a young woman get through a tough day, and as leaders, we must do something to begin helping the young women in our world who are suffering from low self esteem or doing things to their bodies just to be able to sing, act or dance.  I recall an interview with Jennifer Anniston who was of ideal weight when she went to Hollywood, and the first thing agents told her was to “drop 20 pounds”.  There is something so wrong with this picture, and the lifestyle that was portrayed in the Black Swan was not right…not portraying a healthy lifestyle.  If you are in great health and ten pounds overweight, let your doctor be your judge…not Vogue magazine or Perez Hilton.   I applaud Michelle Obama for dedicating her time to healthy lifestyles, and it’s time for Americans to address the war on anorexia, eating disorders, “hooking up” and getting high.   Our sons and daughters are our futures, and the time is now to model what it looks like to live a healthy life.

Leadership Lesson:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

~Eleanor Roosevelt

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The Social Network: I have now seen this movie for the third time.  The movie zooms in the beginning, and the bar scene with Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) left my head spinning, so I had to watch it again just to catch what happened in the first five minutes.  But I have to say…this movie was brilliantly written, produced, directed and acted.  While I am sure that bits and pieces were embellished so that we would all go invest $35-$40 at the movie (this is of course with a stop by the snack bar) at the theater, the real life characters say that the story is pretty darn true.

So, as you all probably know, the movie is a past tense/present tense back and forth movie…showing how Facebook was created and the huge lawsuit that followed…with the Winklevoss twins saying Zuckerberg stole their idea (uh…like they need any more $$…and while they had a great idea, could they have really created FB without Mark?)  and Zuckerberg’s close friend and Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, suing the company for being somewhat forced out of the deal by private investors.

In leadership, all I have to say on this one is this:  Do the right thing, take care of your people, always have a contract and read the tiny, tiny print at the bottom of every contract.  Also…you have to stay on top of situations.  The Social Network movie just showed to me that at a young age, we all learn tough lessons, and business can be a very messy situation if you don’t dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  And always look out for the smartest guy in the room.

This movie is a must watch for anyone who wants to see the wheels of a genius mind turn.  And…as the movie poster says “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making some enemies.”

Leadership Lesson:

“There are two thoughts that often get lost in the discussion about being effective in building and using influence: Don’t assume you have all the right answers-that’s why a strong team is essential. And, above all, do the right thing-not only for business or economic impact, but also for social and philosophical implications. Ultimately, power is the ability to influence and facilitate change, and people naturally rally around leaders who do the right thing consistently.”

_Ralph Szygenda, Former CIO of GM

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