The new release of Miami Vice this month brings to the screen a great example of the classic movies genre of ‘buddy cop’ film which vividly portray the yin-and-yang personas of the Leader-type and Manager-type. Just like the real life battles and travails in business, movies portray challenges and how heroic protagonists overcome them through teamwork and a complementary partnership of skills and attitudes.
The ‘Leader’ is bold, assertive, and often played as more colourful and youthful. The ‘Manager’ is more seasoned, reasoned and stable often played as older and wiser. Examples include Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Sometimes the films focus in on a single hero which provides a portrait of either the ‘Leader’ or ‘Manager’ persona tight focus.
A great portrayal of the ‘Manager’ persona is Paul Rusesabagina in ‘Hotel Rwanda’. The hero Rusesabagina literally plays the hotel ‘Manager’ and his character exhibits all of the qualities of a great one. Taking the Welch description of ‘managers do things right’, Rusesabagina immediately sets out his distinctive quality in ‘doing things right’ though as he explains to his driver, the need for ‘doing it with style.’ He explains that the small detail of bringing a gift of a prized Cuban cigar makes a distinctive difference in the clout he can have with the powerful merchant and soon to be political leader, George Rutaganda. That small attention to detail provides him the relationship and tools to save his life and the lives of dozens of other refugees as the plot unfolds. Rutaganda’s heroism is not portrayed with grand, bold gestures, but dramatically underscores the power of subtle attention to small details to achieve big goals.
Conversely, in the same week, I also watched a great rendition of the ‘Leader’ persona in the film ‘The Aviator’ – the story of Howard Hughes. It paints his vision for the ‘upside’ opportunity in the early days of aviation. His obsessive drive to achieve it is entail enormous risks which he eagerly embraces. In fact, it is an excellent portrayal of (a) how crystal clear ‘Leaders’ see upside opportunity, (b) how going ‘for broke’ after such ambitions can yield huge rewards, (c) how Leaders can neglect the downside risk, and (c) how catastrophic that neglect can be in the long term.