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Watching movies is a great way to unwind, relax and be entertained. Sometimes, however, movies can provide us learning opportunities, particularly in the area of leadership and management. Here are some of the movies I’ve watched over the years and from which I extracted plenty of insights and learning.
1. The Social Network (2010)
What struck me about this movie was that if you can identify a need that isn’t being satisfied, what you have is an opportunity on your hands. What steps you take next to grow that novel idea is your journey towards success or failure. In this case, it was a huge success based on self-belief. This movie captures the true challenges entrepreneurs of today face.
2. Wall Street (1987)
“Greed is good” – well at least Gordon Gekko says it is. Staged in the backdrop of the biggest and most famous stock market in the world, Wall Street touches upon a dilemma we all face at some point in our careers. Do we stay true to our values, principles and ethics? Or do we give into the wealth and power that we can possibly achieve?
3. The Big Short (2010)
This movie, about the 2008 financial crisis, has been hailed by many as the best movie about the business world. It explains the complexities and jargon of the financial world with such simplicity that anyone can understand and appreciate it. And as you make sense of what’s going on in the financial world your alarm bells will start sounding off as you sit in awe and bewilderment.
4. 12 Angry Men (1957)
The courtroom drama may not provide you management lessons in a way you expect it to, however, there’s much to extract from it. Largely, the movie emphasizes on key characteristics that business leaders essentially must portray, such as persuasion, group decision making and consensus-building.
5. Up In The Air (2009)
This one’s probably one of the few movies out there that HR professionals can truly appreciate and relate to. Letting go of people isn’t easy and that’s one of the reminders we get from George Clooney’s character. But more than that, it’s a reminder to all leaders that organizations aren’t just about complex and advanced processes and technology – they’re about people.
6. Other People’s Money (1991)
Corporate control is like a charging bull – you don’t want to be caught sleeping in its path. This movie highlights the struggles faced when corporate giants overpower smaller companies, particularly in hostile takeovers.
7. Working Girl (1988)
Integrity, honesty and authenticity can go a long way – in fact it can be your saving grace. And that’s what this movie showcases so well. Doesn’t matter what role you play in your organization (in this case it’s about a secretary), we all can learn much about staying true to ourselves from this movie.
8. Invictus (2009)
There are few movies that truly capture and shine with the essence of what inspirational leadership is all about, and what it can achieve. This one’s the perfect example of bold, inspirational and transformational leadership.
9. Norma Rae (1979)
The best part about leadership is that it doesn’t always just come from the person sitting on top. Norma Rae led efforts to take the fight to the top and improve working conditions at the textile factory she worked in. The true story captures a determined woman’s struggle to balance her domestic life while leading efforts to establish an empowered union.
10. Moneyball (2011)
What I love about this true story is how Brad Pitt’s character defies the norm and just does it his way. Building a baseball team through statistical analysis and probabilities (thanks to the young economist he hires) and turning the downtrodden franchise into a winner was sheer genius! A perfect example of why archaic processes should give way to good business practices.
11. The Aviator (2004)
If you’re going to compete with a major player in the industry you’ll have to be innovative, creative, a big risk taker and somewhat eccentric. This inspirational movie showcases Howard Hughes’ legendary leadership skills and relentless pursuit.
12. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
In a few words, this movie’s about perseverance, persistence, dedication, and simply just never giving up. Besides being a genuine tear-jerker because of the struggles Will Smith’s Chris Gardner experiences, the movie truly highlights the importance and value of landing a job and how such moments of pride can often be forgotten, yet they’re so valuable.
13. The Insider (1999)
Whistleblowing can be tough, and that’s what one science researcher learned when he plans to take on the big tobacco companies. In this true story of bravery and courage you’ll learn how ‘doing the right thing’ can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re up against corporate giants.
14. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
If sales is your area of interest (or profession) then this one’s for you. It’s sharp, witty and often ruthless, but that’s how most sales jobs can be (though they don’t have to be). If you’re looking to raise your sales figures this movie will tell you how not to motivate your sales force.
15. Thank You For Smoking (2005)
It can sometimes be hard to do the job that you do if it clashes with your personal beliefs and values. But not for Nick Taylor. According to him “everybody’s got to pay the mortgage.” And that’s just what the public face of the tobacco industry tells himself to sleep better at night.
16. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Seeking inspiration from unethical practices and leaders is probably the fastest way to land yourself in trouble. However, the story of Jordan Belfort is more than that. A charismatic leader can move mountains and lead teams through any challenge. We just have to be cautious about which leader we choose to work with.
17. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
For all the times you’ve worked for a tough/horrible boss, this movie will feel nostalgic. Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly teaches us all how a leader shouldn’t behave, especially with young, impressionable team members.
18. Office Space (1999)
The cult classic takes on a comedic view of the workplace, yet between laughs, it touches upon real-life frustrations faced by employees. From being alienated, sidelined, underappreciated, know-it-all horrible bosses, lay-offs, to employee grievances – this movie covers all the bases!
Know of any movies that provided leadership and management lessons? Do add to this list so we all can watch them.
This article originally appeared in Paul Keijzer.