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8 Movies That Can Make You A Better Leader

Source | FastCompany : By GWEN MORAN

Sometimes, movies hold surprising lessons. Just ask New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney, Paul Fishman. At an April 2016 lecture at Fairleigh Dickinson University, he reportedly noted that one of the pieces of popular culture that best captured the work of trial lawyers—albeit in an outrageous and over-the-top way—was the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei.

So in a nod to summer blockbuster season, we asked business leaders and film experts to weigh in on the best leadership movies. Here are eight movies that can teach you important leadership lessons.

MCFARLAND, USA (2015), PG

Ken Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager and founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies, points to McFarland, USA for exceptional leadership lessons. Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) must change his leadership style to get better performance out of his team. While that’s advice many leadership experts advocate, it’s easier said than done. “He learned the importance of becoming a serving leader,” Blanchard says.

THE REVENANT (2015), R

Former Apple marketing whiz Guy Kawasaki, now keynote speaker and author ofThe Art of the Start 2.0, chooses the frozen epic that delivered Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar. Kawasaki says there are lessons about resilience and overcoming adversity that are important to leaders. “No matter what people tell you—or your inner voice tells you—you can beat the 800-pound gorilla. Or, in this case, grizzly bear,” he says, even when it comes at great cost. He says entrepreneurship is more like the brutal challenges of this movie than it is the fairy-tale of meeting cofounders and venture capitalists, getting funding, shipping product, collecting revenue, and going public.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (2006), PG-13

Babson College film professor Julie Levinson, author of The American Success Myth on Film, says that although Hollywood movies are made by corporations, throughout film history they have tended to be resolutely cynical about corporate hierarchies. One of those movies is The Pursuit of Happyness, where corporate leaders recognize the long-shot potential of Chris Gardner (Will Smith), a down-on-his-luck salesman, and give him a chance at success. Gardner endures homelessness with his young son, Christopher (Jaden Smith), with grit and determination. “We tend to love stories of strivers, and we’re less enamored of those who have arrived at the top and already achieved professional success,” she says.

MADE IN DAGENHAM (2010), R

A dramatization of a strike at an English auto plant in the late 1960s, Jane Boursaw, film critic and founder of entertainment website Reel Life with Jane, says this movie shows that leaders can be found anywhere. Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) is a reluctant figure to launch a fight for equal pay, but summons the courage to rally her fellow female workers to take on the cause. “She’s not afraid to speak her mind and calls on inner strength to persevere,” Boursaw says.

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