Leadership is one of my greatest passions. I’m also a huge movie buff. So it’s only natural to combine these two passions into one blog post. The result: my list of the top ten movies that provide some inspiring leadership lessons.
So here goes (in no particular order):
- Saving Private Ryan
Main Leaders: Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks)
“This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something. Because to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t trade ten Ryans for one Vecchio or one Caparzo”. (Captain Miller)
“I don’t know. Part of me thinks the kid’s right. What’s he done to deserve this? He wants to stay here, fine. Let’s leave him and go home. But another part of me thinks, what if we stay, and by some miracle we actually make it out of here alive? Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess.” (Sergeant Mike Horvath)
Key leadership lessons: leading by example, leading through adversity, conflict management, trust, courage, sacrifice, motivating through a sense of purpose.
- Apollo 13
Main Leaders: Flight Director Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris), Commander Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks)
“We’ve never lost an American in space and we sure as hell ain’t gonna lose one on my watch.”; (Gene Kranz)
“Failure is not an option!”; (Gene Kranz)
“Let’s work the problem, people.”, “I don’t care about what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do.”; (Gene Kranz)
“With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour”. (Gene Kranz)
“Gentlemen… what are your intentions? I’d like to go home. We’ve got a burn coming up… Let’s go home.” (Jim Lovell)
Key leadership lessons: crisis management, teamwork, creativity, enabling others to act, setting expectations, determination, confidence, motivating through a sense of purpose
Main Leaders: Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Roman Armies of the North (played by Russell Crowe)
“What we do in life echoes an eternity” (Maximus)
Key leadership lessons: leading by example, trust, courage, honor, vision
A Few Good Men
Main Leaders: Col. Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson), Lt. Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise)
“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”; (Col. Jessup)
“We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something.”; (Col. Jessup)
“Ever put your life in another man’s hands, ask him to put his life in yours? We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It’s that simple.” (Col. Jessup)
Key leadership lessons: values, code of honor, courage, fighting for a just cause.
Main Leaders: William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson).
“I have nothing. Men fight for me because if they do not, I throw them off my land and I starve their wives and their children. Those men who bled the ground red at Falkirk, they fought for William Wallace, and he fights for something that I never had.” (Robert de Bruce).
“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!” (William Wallace).
Key leadership lessons: leading by example, trust, courage, honor, vision, fighting for a just cause.
Main Leaders: Mohandas Gandhi
“When I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won. There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it: always.”; (Gandhi)
“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” (Gandhi)
Key leadership lessons: leading by example, vulnerability, vision, courage, sacrifice, unselfishness, determination, diversity.
- Thirteen Days
Main Leaders: President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy
“I have the authority! I am the commander in chief of the United States, and I say when we go to war!” (President Kennedy);
“No, no, no! Now, there is more than one option here – and if one isn’t occurring to us, it’s because we haven’t thought hard enough!” (Robert Kennedy)
Key leadership lessons: crisis management, teamwork, challenging assumptions, remaining calm under pressure.
Main Leaders: Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon), Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman).
“I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul. / I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.”; (Nelson Mandela)
“The day I am afraid to do that [risk my political career] is the day I am no longer fit to lead.”; (Nelson Mandela)
“Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.” (Nelson Mandela)
Key leadership lessons: creating a shared vision, leading by example, inspiration, trust, diversity, influencing.
- Schindler’s List
Main Leaders: Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley)
“This list… is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.” (Itzhak Stern);
“Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.” (Itzhak Stern);
“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” (Itzhak Stern);
“My father was fond of saying you need three things in life – a good doctor, a forgiving priest, and a clever accountant. The first two, I’ve never had much use for.” (Oskar Schindler);
Key leadership lessons: crisis management, influencing, courage, fighting for a just cause, sacrifice, creativity.
- The Last Samurai
Main Leaders: Katsumoto (played by Ken Watanabe), Captain Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise)
“You believe a man can change his destiny?” (Katsumoto)
“I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed.” (Algren).
“I say, Japan was made by a handful of brave men. Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.”; (Simon Graham)
“And so the days of the Samurai had ended. Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds. Others, that he returned to his own country. But I like to think he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find.” (Simon Graham);
“What does it mean to be Samurai? To devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles. To seek a stillness of your mind. And to master the way of the sword.” (Captain Algren)
Key leadership lessons: leading by example, honor, duty, courage, sacrifice, unselfishness, fighting for a just cause.
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