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People watching a film in a cinema

Performance Leadership Films

John Bull
August 9, 2017

At the heart of our work on high performance is a belief that our core role as leaders is to create an environment that gets the best out of the talent around us. Unsurprisingly, this is a topic that has scriptwriters have used to create some of the finest moments in cinema.

Here are five of our favourite films exploring the importance of believing in people’s potential, setting high standards and supporting people in rising to the challenge:

1. Apollo 13

True story documenting the leadership of Jean Krantz as flight controller of the Apollo missions. Highlights the importance of conveying absolute belief in your team, giving individuals and teams specific areas of responsibility and using frequent reviews to track progress.

2. Coach Carter

True story documenting the impact of Ken Carter, a basketball coach who transforms the lives of a group of kids by refusing to buy in to their limitations.

3. Stand and Deliver

Tells the true story of a teacher who decides to challenge a class of underachieving students to try out for a calculus test only the top 2% of students can pass. Based on the life of Jamie Escalante, who left a high paying job to prove that education was failing the children it perceived as low potential.

4. Whiplash

Fascinating film exploring the impact of high standards and challenge without the support and positive reinforcement people also need.

Most inspiring quote: ‘I push people beyond what is expected of them. I believe that is an absolute necessity.’
Most disturbing quote: ‘There are no two words in English more harmful than ‘good job’.

We include this film as a contrast to the others, because we often hear leaders feeling a need to make a choice between challenge and support. The answer is not to challenge less. Challenge is great. The secret is to care more and to show the team you care.

5. 12 O'Clock High

Explores the impact of two very different leadership styles on the performance of a bomber group in WW2. In contrast to Whiplash, this film highlights the limitations of a leadership style in which the leader cares but fails to challenge.

Do you have any favourite performance leadership films that you would like to share? Why not share your insights and reflections on twitter using #performanceleadershipfilms

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