10 Surprising Movies That Will Upgrade Your Leadership

I’m on a blogging sabbatical to write my upcoming book. This is a guest post by Kent Sanders. Kent writes about creativity, the arts, and leadership at KentSanders.net and is also the author of 30 Days of Evernote for Churches. You can connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Seen any good movies lately with a video projector from Projector Rental Company? The answer is probably “yes.” Movies engage us with story, action, and real-life examples of heroes and villains. They can also help you be a better leader.

So many great movies have been made that it’s hard to choose just ten. Who doesn’t love leadership-oriented movies like Gladiator, Thirteen Days, The Right Stuff, and Braveheart? I couldn’t include every great leadership movie on my list, but I hope it encourages you to explore great movies and how they can empower and inspire you.

 1. Apollo 13

The crew of the Apollo 13 lunar mission faces impending doom when their spacecraft suffers major damage, forcing them to scrub their mission. They must work with Flight Director Gene Kranz and mission control to quickly find solutions to life-or-death problems they couldn’t have anticipated. The crew returns safely home because of their ingenuity and resourcefulness in the midst of a crisis.

Leadership lesson: Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you must use the tools at your disposal to get the job done.

 2. Lincoln

Lincoln follows President Abraham Lincoln in the last few months of his presidency as he struggles to secure the votes to pass the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery forever. He must do it quickly before the end of the war or the opportunity may be lost. Through his wit, wisdom, and relationships he is able to convince members of Congress to stand up for what is right.

Leadership lesson: Influence is not just about power or position; it’s also about relationships. Leaders must be able to relate to people and at times be persuasive to make progress toward key goals.

 3. The King’s Speech

The film tells the story of King George VI of England, who has suffered with a stuttering problem since childhood. He is forced to assume leadership when his older brother abdicates the throne. With the help of an unorthodox speech therapist he overcomes his stuttering problem and confidently leads Britain into war with Germany in 1939.

Leadership lesson: Each of us has personal challenges to overcome. We must be humble enough to receive help when we need.

4. Dead Poets Society

In 1950’s New England, Professor John Keating arrives as the new English teacher at a boys’ academy. He uses unorthodox teaching methods to encourage his students to think for themselves and seize the day.

Leadership lesson: Leaders don’t always follow the established rules. Sometimes you must break the rules in order to change outdated or ineffective thinking.

5. A Few Good Men

At Guantanamo Marine Base in Cuba, a private is attacked by fellow Marines performing an illegal disciplinary measure called a “code red.” Lt. Commander Jo Galloway and inexperienced trial lawyer Lt. Dan Kaffee investigate the difficult truth that the “code red” may have been a direct order from Col. Nathan Jessup.

Leadership lesson: At times you must have difficult conversations and confront others with the truth, even when it is uncomfortable.

6. The Passion of the Christ

Passion follows Jesus during the events of his final week—his trials, death, and resurrection. This is familiar territory to Christians but the movie portrays them in a way never before seen on film. It’s a visceral reminder of the immense suffering Jesus endured to fulfill his calling.

Leadership lesson: If you are following God’s call on your life you should not be surprised when you experience pain and suffering. In fact, Paul told us we should expect it (2 Timothy 3:12).

7. Lee Daniels’ The Butler

This film tells the story of Cecil Gaines, the personal butler to eight American Presidents. Through the social change of the 1960’s and 70’s, as well as his own family crises, he remained steadfast in his loyalty and service.

Leadership lesson: Being a leader doesn’t always mean being in charge. Sometimes it means serving the one in charge.

8. Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan follows Captain Miller and his squad as they search for a private whose brothers are all missing or have been killed in action. The movie is most famous for its harrowing portrayal of the deadly Normandy invasion on D-Day.

Leadership lesson: When you are facing a difficult situation, you must confront your fears head-on instead of running away.

9. Moneyball

Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane must figure out a way to build a successful team with the most dismal payroll in pro baseball. He takes an unconventional approach by hiring Peter Brand, a recent Yale grad who uses statistical analysis to help Beane put together a winning team.

Leadership lesson: Don’t blindly follow what everyone else is doing. Do your homework, understand your area of expertise, and create a strategy based on good information.

10. Citizen Kane

This classic film, currently voted by critics as the greatest of all time, follows the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane. He accumulated wealth, women, and prestige, but in the end he died a lonely old man. His whole life was a search for the love that always seemed to elude him.

Leadership lesson: The best leaders are emotionally healthy. Don’t look for love and fulfillment in the wrong places.

Hollywood has given us lots of great movies showing leadership in action. Check out some of these for a great dose of inspiration!

Question: What is your favorite leadership movie?