© Santosh Subramanian – Some rights reserved - Under Creative Commons

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What are Leaders made of!

Hello World! I am back with a bang! LOL :)

I tried my best to stay away from the blogging world for some time due to external pressures & realized how intensely I am in love with expressing myself, talking to others & communicating to the outside world. With out expression, I cease to exist! So, here we go.

I am actually in a hangover from one of the classic movies that I saw in bits & pieces over the last 2 weeks – Scent of a Woman. Wonderful movie, great performance & considered one of the classics of English Cinema. Al Pacino won the Academy Award & the Golden Globe award for the Best Actor in portraying the retired, blind (caused by mishandling grenades), Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade. I am not going to talk about the movie or the plot or the performance of the actors here. But there are many take-aways from this movie in general - on living and on leadership.

The dialogue he delivers at the court-room kind of setup in the School where his assistant Charlie Simms, a student of the graduate school, is being tried as a witness to a silly prank some fellow classmates did outside the Headmaster’s Chamber - is just mind blowing & thought provoking. Charlie is recommended by the Headmaster to the jury council to be expelled from the school for not giving out the names (Apparently the Headmaster offered a bribe to Charlie in terms of a seat in Harvard for exchange of the names - which he declined) thereby permanently damaging his career, when Lt. Col. Slade gets up and gives out this thought provoking dialogue.

The dialogue, though not exact, is below: -
By expelling Charlie, you think you are sending him home with his tail between his legs; but you are executing his soul! For what?

When I walked in today, I heard something about this school called the “Cradle of Leadership”. What kind of leaders do you make here? If I were the man I was five years ago, I'd take a flame thrower to this place...

Charlie has reached a cross road in his life & he has chosen a path. Its the right path. It is a path made of PRINCIPLES... that leads to CHARACTER... He won't SELL ANYBODY out to BUY HIS FUTURE. And that, my friends, is called INTEGRITY. That's called COURAGE. And that's the stuff that leaders SHOULD be made of!

I just couldn’t agree any more. Are today’s leaders (Corporate & even others) made of this stuff?

I don't know. From my experience, It is a dirty, murkier, back stabbing game of shamelessness where there is not even a trace of integrity, forget courage.

Some food for thought!


Anonymous said...


you have brought a nice analogy into this what I would say "Leadership Qualities" although I would have inclined more towards if this was from a "business" environement.

Afterall I have seen in the corporate industry, that aspire to foster business growth & excel "come-what- may" attitude, there would be neck to neck, person to person politics that go which ""forces""? :) to take guard on the things that you have spoken 'dirty, murkier, back stabbing game of shamelessness'- the courage falls down or hides when a person wants to evince his surpassing contribution with the intension of show up high visibility amongst colleauges, society & a self belief on personal growth taking this path.

Maybe that is the reason why they are called as leaders but not the true leaders - agree?

- Vijay

Vishal said...

Excellent post...I watched this scene twice for the message and for punch in it. Integrity is such a rare thing today. In the rat race and a desire to excel people forget that they would be seen as a "forced leader" than really a person who is looked upto if they dont lead by honesty, integrity and humbleness. Besides Dirty Dozen, Lagaan, this movie ought to be shown as a Leadership lesson to the politicians and corporates. Keep posting.

Chaosrules said...

Nice post!

I have points both for and against the main theme, from the view of society and individual. If a person wishes to be seen as succesful in the eyes of society, he does step across the line and does whatever it takes to achive his goal, be it crossing others path, backstabbing etc. Unfortunately, these days, personal success is often driven by what society sees as "success", so whatever factors you have described are kinda becoming the norm (things like if a million people do something wrong,is it still wrong? Isn't it right? A common example is evading taxes or producing fake bills to reduce income tax). Have you read the article by Ayn Rand on Selfishness as a virtue? Going by that, if the person doesnt disclose the names of people (who i believe are culprits, i havent seen the movie yet) in exchange for a seat at Harvard (Law school?), then he is a loser.

I still question the ending of the movie "Mudhalvan" (*ing Arjun) where he fakes a shoot out and gets the villain killed. Was he, the CM of a state, right in doing so?

I guess the main problem is we have million examples to show lack of integrity but we have very few examples of people who show integrity and courage, just because the good ones are suppressed and silenced!

Santosh said...

Thank you for stopping by.
Agree with you on most of the section, but a fundamental question. Why is there a need to get into a 'need for high visibility' when our actions will start speaking for us? I am a firm believer that no force can keep the fragrance of your actions under covers for indefinite amount of time. The fundamental driving factor is that you dont have to put somebody down or sell somebody to buy your future or career or what so ever. So, as you said, they might be 'managers' & not 'true leaders'.

Yeah, I couldn't resist seeing that particular scene again & again. Infact, I even downloaded a copy of that scene from Youtube.

The most sad part of leadeship trainings today is that they teach how to 'Manage'. Managing & Leading are a different ball game & a person can have both qualities. But each of us would have one of these as the dominating character & that eventually shows up as what kind of a leader you are! The personality part is mostly forgotten in many of the leadership trainings - May be because that is something that cannot be 'taught in school'?

So, Lagaan, Oceans' series, The Italian Job, (I haven't seen Dirty Dozen) have a lot of take aways in terms on strategy, teamwork, planning & execution & have the heroes who depict these leadership qualities to a certain extent - I am really surprised that this movie has not made it, despite being a classic example.

Your comment made me do some research on Ayn Rand & her work. Though many of her thoughts looks apt to the reality that is going around in the world (I especially liked the example of evading Taxes), I feel that it is a classic example of the American school of thought of - I, Me, Mine - Anything else can wait! Read about that in one of my earlier posts here

An excerpt from the review of her masterpiece novel :- Atlas Shrugged

Rand’s Ethical Theory - The Virtue of Selfishness: -
Self interest rightly understood, according to Rand, is to see oneself as an end in oneself. That is to say that one's own life and happiness are one's highest values, and that one does not exist as a servant or slave to the interests of others. Nor do others exist as servants or slaves to one's own interests. Each person's own life and happiness is his ultimate end. Self interest rightly understood also entails self-responsibility: one's life is one's own, and so is the responsibility for sustaining and enhancing it. It is up to each of us to determine what values our lives require, how best to achieve those values, and to act to achieve those values

She is a greatly accomplished philosopher & writer but I could only empathise with her. Most of her thoughts seem to be biased based on the brutal experiences of transition that she had faced in the hands of the soviets - She is a Russian who moved to America during the cold war. Probably she should have visited more places, understood other cultures before she started generalizing. However that makes me more curious to read her books :)

And for your comment on Mudhalvan... well, Shankar is a director for the masses - so he is doing his job :) & I agree on the lack of publicity on people who 'walk the talk'.

Dhanya said...

You are tagged

Santosh said...

Does this mean that I have to answer a set of questions - similar to one I saw in your blog a long ago?