Movies and TV shows are a great way to unwind, and while we use them for entertainment, we can also learn a thing or two from them. Here are some of the best business and leadership lessons I have learned from a few.
1. Peaky Blinders – Thomas Shelby
Though Thomas has a disadvantage of being Irish in the early 1900s Britain among others, he has clear goals and ambition and is adamant to make his dream a reality. The lessons taken from this is that sometimes, all the favours are against you, but with clear goals, you can craft a way to work amid the difficulties. Another lesson is that, considering that all that opposes him and that he had confidence in himself, Thomas does not underestimate the opponent. At the end of the day, he is willing to give up a lot of himself to earn his legacy as he understand that high ambitions require one to make hard choices and sacrifices.
2. Boardwalk Empire – Nucky Thompson and Arnold Rothstein
How Nucky gets to the top is mostly taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. The courage to propel self when opportunities arise is one important trait of a leader. For example, when alcohol was outlawed in the city, Nucky took advantage of being the man to see when one needed illegal alcohol and does business with Arnold Rothstein. This is taking advantage of business opportunities even when one has to work with someone from the opposing side.
3. Spartacus – Spartacus and Marcus Crassus
Spartacus was clear in his vision to free the slaves in Rome which was a tough challenge and he chose to go all in. Though he was undermanned, he utilized each of his team’s individual strengths and encouraged them to utilize their skills encouraging delegation. Though he was eventually defeated by Marcus Crassus, he fought to the bitter end and eventually sacrificed himself for the cause he believed in.
4. Lost – Jack Shephard
Jack Shephard displays servant leadership. He ignores his own injuries and rushes to help others. His character and ability to maintain a level head in times of crisis and delegating in times of need made others follow him even though he was reluctant to assume leadership. Most importantly, during times of fear, Jack did not let it get to him. He says, “So I just made a choice. I would let fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing. But only for five seconds. That’s all I was going to give it.”
5. The Sopranos – Tony Soprano
Tony acknowledges that every action has consequences, calling up for accountability. He straightforwardly tells someone when they have screwed up, what the consequences are and what they need to do to make it right. He delegates to other family members and holds them accountable. When they achieve what is expected of them, he rewards them and failure to meet target also has consequences. His leadership style is very hands-on and task oriented what we would call transactional leadership. He gets work done by use of rewards and management by exception.
6. The Walking Dead – Rick Grimes
Rick Grimes takes up leadership of the group to survive a Zombie apocalypse. Rick stands out as a leader because he steps up even when everyone is afraid to do so. For example, he steps in to kill Carol’s daughter after she has been infected while everyone else is afraid to do so. Later, he gets rid of Carol, though it is a tough choice, when he realizes that she is a liability to the group. Another lesson from Rick is that all leaders are not perfect, and it is important for a leader to empower subordinates so that they may take charge when the leader is not able to. Earlier in the series, he takes sole command of the group such that when he falls apart emotionally after the death of his wife, subordinates are left with no direction and it took them some time to step up.
7. Hell on Wheels – Cullen Bohannon
In any organization, leaders need to hold a person accountable for their actions and this is one way to earn respect. Bohannon stands his ground on more than one occasion insisting that rules are there to be followed even when they don’t seem so appealing. For example, when a man tries to kill two brothers he accused of killing his friend, Bohannon takes charge and frees the brothers while banishing the man out of the town. He puts emphasis of the rules and that they are there for a reason, if everyone acted as they pleased then an organization would be a jungle.
8. The Lord of the Rings – Aragorn
Aragorn’s most commendable leadership attribute is the relationship he has with his people. He cares for his people and has no ego that he is above them despite being king. Eowyn tells him, “You do not order others to stay. They fight beside you because they could not be parted from you.” Even after emerging on top and being crowned by Gandalf in Minus Tirith, he acknowledges the people contributing to victory. He says, “This day does not belong to a single man, it belongs to all”.
9. The Godfather I, II, III – Vito and Michael Corleone
The most vital lesson among many learned from the Godfather is about relationships and how much they matter in business. Vito creates a powerful community and earns loyalty to those who help him and this comes in handy numerous times. Most of the good relationships that Vito creates are what Michael depends on when he takes over leadership; those with respect for his father are willing to work with him, although some try to trick him but he learned good people judgement skills from his father.
10. Star Wars – Darth Vader
He was accountable and held other accountable for his actions. He had low tolerance for failure and those who worked for him knew failure could get them killed. This is not a very positive trait since poor communication or accidents could lead to failure at any job. If anything, for a good manager, Vader could have solicited ideas and engaged with staff on how to perform certain tasks and acknowledge the benefit of proper feedback.