Feature

Course uses film stars to provide examples of good leadership

Film stars portray many of the characteristics of good leadership as a course for business managers attempts to show.

Icons of the big screen may display traits that business leaders can learn from. Karl Cushing goes once more unto the breach

It has been said that people don't want to be managed they want to be led, and if you're going to be a leader then why not be an inspirational one?

The architects of the two-day Images of Leadership course at Horsham-based Roffey Park Management Institute suggest that, instead of simply developing leadership strategies, people can learn from the styles of famous characters from the big screen. After all, films have provided a multitude of real and fictional role models for would-be leaders - from inspirational figures like Gandhi to Wall Street's espouser of "greed is good", Gordon Gekko.

Roffey Park's course will use film clips to demonstrate different leadership styles and qualities.

"There's a danger that anything new in this area can seem like a fad, admits course director Paul Roberts, "But films are a very good source for learning. They provide a common reference point and a shared experience.

"Films are a very popular and informative force in our culture and we're often very influenced by what we see in films," Roberts says.

"I expect people to go away with a greater understanding of the range of leadership styles and an idea of how they can develop their own leadership style. Ultimately, people need to lead in a style that matches their personality."

Roberts cites Marlon Brando's character in The Godfather as an example of someone who inspires respect and loyalty from others. Roberts contrasts this with that of Al Pacino's character in Godfather 2 who still commands loyalty but through fear. He also uses Saving Private Ryan and Apollo 13 as examples of team leadership.

However, Roberts is quick to point out that there is no single role model that participants can emulate for a sure-fire route to leadership pre-eminence. In the film world, leaders are often one-dimensional characters, such as the charismatic, male military hero like Henry V or General Patton.

It is necessary to compare and contrast such characters with others in order to cover the whole gamut of leadership skills and aspects.

Roberts also draws an important distinction between the style and purpose of leadership. Gandhi and Patton may both demonstrate an individual and heroic style of leadership but their purpose or motivation were arguably different - Patton could be viewed as a pragmatic, ego-driven career man with Gandhi working to further the cause of others.

Other figures singled out for investigation include Elizabeth 1, Lawrence of Arabia and Malcolm X and fictional characters from the world of film like Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, Gekko in Wall Street and Citizen Kane from the movie of the same name.

The course focuses on six key leadership styles - charismatic, manipulative, receptive, inspirational, coercive and values-led. A recent Roffey Park survey found that 55% of people were unhappy with the top managers in their companies, saying they didn't act as leaders and weren't effective in their roles.

"People have a clear idea of the leader they want," says Roberts. "At the moment, they are being shortchanged.

Images of Leadership, 2-3 April at Roffey Park costs £1,150

For more information, contact the bookings office on 01293-851644 or look at www.roffeypark.com

Character: Elizabeth I
Film: Elizabeth (UK 1998)
Director: Shekhar Kapur
Actress: Cate Blanchett
Quotes: I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too. I do not so much rejoice that God hath made me to be a Queen, as to be a Queen over so thankful a people. I will make you shorter by a head.
Effectiveness: Often referred to as The Virgin Queen or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was a strong leader who ruthlessly suppressed her enemies and inspired fear and loyalty in her subjects.

Character: Gandhi
Film: Gandhi (UK 1982)
Director: Richard Attenborough
Actor: Ben Kingsley
Quote: Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding. Where there is no strength of mind there can be no strength of soul. It is difficult but not impossible to conduct strictly honest business. What is true is that honesty is incompatible with the amassing of a large fortune.
Effectiveness: Gandhi's dream of an independent India was finally realised in 1947 but his non-violent convictions led him to agree to the country's partition, ultimately leading to his death.

Character: General George S Patton
Film: Patton (US 1970)
Director: Franklin J Schaffner
Actor: George C Scott
Quote: A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances. If a man does his best, what else is there? A good solution applied with vigour now is better than a perfect solution applied 10 minutes later.
Effectiveness: A controversial and flamboyant war hero, Patton inspired troops with his leadership style, embodied in dictums as "grab 'em by the nose and kick 'em in the ass" but was a liability in peacetime.

Character: Henry V
Film: Henry V (UK 1944)
Director: Lawrence Olivier
Actor: Lawrence Olivier
Quote: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there is nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility. But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger...
Effectiveness: An heroic, just and patriotic military figure who commanded respect from his subjects, Henry restored order in England and invaded France, routing the French forces at Agincourt.

Character: Malcolm X
Film: Malcolm X (US 1992)
Director: Spike Lee
Actor: Denzel Washington
Quote: Power in defence of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression. Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. Effectiveness: Malcolm X was one of Black America's most influential figures and a very powerful speaker. But he left the Nation of Islam, following internal tensions and a change of heart on the subject of racial integration. He was assasinated by Black Muslims.


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This was first published in March 2001

 

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