Leadership at the Movies

I just saw the 1964 movie Becket, in limited release on the big screen, with Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, as Becket and Henry II. Seeing Becket’s conversion to a principled leader is fascinating—and a good reminder that acting out of clear principle doesn’t mean guaranteed success. And Peter O’Toole’s Henry is a wonderful example of a narcissistic leader, who needs Becket as a mirror for his sense of himself. Watching two great actors play off each other is a treat. The movie will be released on DVD in May.

2 replies on “Leadership at the Movies

  • Sean Harry

    When I was teaching college classes in leadership I used a scene from Henvry V (the 1989 Kenneth Branagh version — http://www.amazon.com/Henry-V-Brian-Blessed/dp/079284615X) to show how a great leader can motivate ordinary people to accomplish extra-ordinary things. The scene is the St. Crispin’s Day speech in which he proclaims, “this story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered, — We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;” and ” all things are ready if our minds be so.”

    A bonus for those who liike sword fights is the scene immediately following wherein the English defeated the French at Agincourt. A bit bloody, so if you don’t like that thing turn it off after the speech.

    Kenneth Branagh and William Shakespeare! What a combination!
    Sean Harry

  • IGalindo

    Margaret, a good companion movie for this is “A Man For All Seasons,” (1966) written by playwrite Robert Bolt and starring Paul Scoffield, Leo McKern, and Robert Shaw. History repeats itself (multigenerational transmission?) with Henry VIII who, wanting to divorce his wife, seeks the approval of the aristocracy. Sir Thomas More (Paul Scoffield) is the man of principle and reason who is placed in the difficult position of choosing to stand up for his principles and risking the wrath of the King (who has a penchant for executing those who disagree); or giving in to the wilfullness of the man in power. Tragically, the lesson is similar: the nobler persons live by well-articulated principles, but that does not guarantee success or victory in a system that tolerates poor leaders.


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