Thursday, 23 October 2014

Letting go of secrets & lies...

What We Did on Our Holiday is a peach of a movie. Building on the winning formula of Outnumbered, where children take a central role in the humorous narrative, this is a film to delight, entrance, move and generally make you laugh out loud. I giggled & chortled through most of this film. And when I wasn't doing either, I was probably shedding a few tears. This is a rich and warm film: as beautiful and powerful as the highlands of Scotland.

The film is about how adults teach children to tell the truth yet all the while drawing them in to our untruths, secrets and lies. Billy Connolly plays the kind of grandfather that every child should have: funny, adoring and above all, truth telling. And you will have to see the film to understand how much the children believe him and believe in him. This film will charm you. (PS and if Andy Hamilton doesn't get a knighthood soon, there is no justice in the honours system!)

This may not be an exact quote, but at one point in the film Gordie (Connolly) says that not all parts of life should be written down as it doesn't help. He is making the point that some things should not be documented. To this I would add, not all things should be recorded either.

Over the weekend I was having a debate about people's rights to privacy and how we are creating a world in which some of our most intimate and now even most tragic parts of human life are subject to youtube scores, facebook likes or retweeting. We need to be sure that what we record (and especially make digital) is going to add to the world not subtract from it. Leadership is about making those fine judgments too: when is it right to move past things and allow them to disappear like a puff of smoke... and when not to do this...

What do you record? What do you let slip away?


This is the fifty seventh of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Going, going, gone... girl

Gone Girl will keep you guessing until the end and then even beyond! It is one of those films that will grip you and fling you around like dog with a stick. At various points you might speculate that you have an idea what is going to happen, but you will be wrong, so wrong!

This is a slick movie with some fine scripting and smooth, very cool acting. Watch the eyes of the main characters especially: they tell the real story of what is happening all along. Even though it is two and half hours, this will pass by in minutes and you will be left wondering why you did not finish your popcorn... This is a film to go and see!

Gone Girl is all about image and how image can destroy you or uplift you. Some people seem to think that leadership can also be a stage act. Wear the right clothes, put on the right face, take the right stimulants and it's showtime folks! But what the film also shows is that image is a very fragile thing.

Appearance and the appearance of confidence matter. Of course they do. But they can only take you so far. Good leadership has substance that is far more than skin deep. Leaders have to look beyond their own mirrors.

What are you reflecting on today?


This is the fifty sixth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Never give up!

I awoke yesterday morning to the breathtaking news that an Anglo-Polish team had managed to use a man's nasal nerves to repair his spine and restore some life changing functionality to his lower body. Amazing! For me, this was a Christiaan Barnard moment: a genuine breakthrough in medical science. My hearty congratulations to everyone involved, not least the courageous patient at the centre of it all.

I listened to a humble, excited and indeed 'frightened' Professor Geoffrey Raisman on BBC Radio 4 talking about how his research had begun in the 1970's. He said he was frightened (I think) because the future is now so pregnant with possibilities for thousands of people, that it is so daunting and scary.

This is of course just one case and replication will be a critical next step. But I cannot express how excited I am at the idea that our bodies can be helped to repair themselves in ways that we never thought possible. If this research can lead to treatments that can help people regain control of their limbs, bodily functions (including breathing) after traumatic injury or strokes: this is truly momentous!

All of which got me thinking: are we using all the technology available to us to build community safety, prevent crime, reduce road fatalities and generally achieve an even more peaceful society? What crime prevention ideas have been bubbling around for 30+ years (in the heads of people like Professor Geoffrey Raisman) that are doggedly being pursued but which have not yet made it, as it were?

And by technology, I don't just mean the machines that go ping or the clever use of biology or chemistry: critical though they are. I also mean the new ways of thinking, the news ways of practising that can really make a difference...

For me, one of the key ideas in this latest news above, is "don't give up": if you think you know of a way that will help humankind, stick at it! It may take you 40 years but if you know it can work...

And it all comes back to leadership: the best leaders in the world listen lots and look for every which way to support innovation in practice. How is your leadership doing?

Saturday, 18 October 2014


My son was heavily into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they first arrived on the scene 20 odd years ago. So it was with a sense of warm nostalgia for those days when my son was very young and delightful (in the way that small boys are - though he is still wonderful now!), that I sat down to enjoy the film. I was expecting good CGI, a loose and not too complex story with some convincing acting. I was not disappointed, indeed I was thrilled! There is even a cameo performance from one of my favourite actresses: Whoopi Goldberg (who I still think would make a fantastic Dr Who).

This film is a glorious romp that does not take itself seriously: these are teenage mutant ninja turtles after all! The film bubbles with heroism, silliness, beauty (of NYC) & good baddies! The narrative is entirely predictable but enjoyable as a consequence. Go and see it with some popcorn, maybe even clutching a small figurine.

This film is all about having fun while doing some very serious and important things. Batman never laughs and Clark Kent only just manages a half smile. Do the X-Men ever have a party? Probably not: the weight of saving the world weighs heavy on most super hero shoulders.

But what this film suggests that is having fun is part of it. How many leaders do you know who can engender a sense of fun and joy? As a leader, how do you balance the serious stuff with the fun stuff? When was the last time people saw you laugh or just do something a little less of ponderous importance?

How do you make work.. fun?


This is the fifty fifth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Bread & Roses

Pride is a sumptuous and joyous film of the very highest order. It tells the true story of how a group of gay men and lesbians decided to raise money in support of striking miners in 1984 & 1985. The narrative tension pivots on the culture clash between the cosmopolitan bohemian London activists on the one hand and that of miners & their families from a traditional and small Welsh town on the other. The fusion will warm you, inspire you and delight you.

The acting, costumes and sets are top notch: evoking an authentic reminiscence of that time in British history. Bill Nighy is wonderfully understated while Dominic West quite the opposite. Meanwhile Imelda Staunton & Jessica Gunning are as solid as tweed and tins of baked beans. And the lead actor, Ben Schnetzer, is luminous. This is a must see film!

This film is peppered with profound & diverse leadership in so many places, it is difficult to know which theme to choose to highlight. Huge dollops of tenacity, humility, determination to succeed, courage, curiosity, honesty and of course pride & confidence are all on display. Another huge theme, if not the whole plot, is about finessing adversity.

This is epitomised in one part of the story where the activists are referred to as 'perverts'. They decide to own the word, turn it around and use it ironically to build their campaign. How many leaders are able to take an insult and bat it back like a cricket ball? Good leaders are not just robust, they are robustly ironic too.

Does your leadership cricket bat need any linseed oil?

And I must offer a special plug for a song which features in the film: Bread & Roses. It is sung beautifully by Bronwen Lewis. Click here to be enchanted.


This is the fifty fourth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.