If you subscribe to my Leadership Path newsletter, you know that I just moved from one abode to another and that I was without television/internet connection for four days. Imagine the horror!
Once I got used to the idea of being in the dark, so to speak, I had time to catch up on reading and browsing through my DVD collection. Like you, I have an assortment of movies and music in a variety of formats. I even have a few 16-RPM records hanging around with no way to play them. But that’s a different story for a different day.
With all of the stress associated with moving, I was settling down one evening looking for a few laughs. One of the old movies I selected was Down Periscope. If you have not seen it, I encourage you to do so. It is very relevant from a leadership training perspective. I use segments from this comedy in some of my presentations.
The screenwriters, Hugh Wilson, Andrew Kurtzman, and Eliot Wald are brilliant. You could almost swear they were trying to share the principles of The Leadership Challenge under the guise of a Hollywood script. It is very funny at least for my funny bone.
The premise plots a veteran skipper played by Kelsey Grammer, who is everything but a textbook officer, against Bruce Dern, the agitated admiral. Grammer is given a promotion test and command of a diesel-powered WWII sub crewed by a collection of maladjusted, mistake-prone misfits. He is then ordered to take on the U.S.Navy’s best in a crucial war game…belching diesel versus nuclear sub.
Not close to Oscar material of course, but along with Grammer, the key actors Lauren Holly, Rob Schneider, Bruce Dern, William H. Macy and Rip Torn are supported by a superb cast of rebel oddballs.
Rob Schneider is the obnoxious first officer who challenges Grammer’s credibility with the team to his own downfall. He is forced to walk the plank blindfolded while the crew don’s pirate costumes straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Argh Matey! One can’t help but think of the precepts of Model the Way as he falls into a nearby fishing boat and is returned to base unharmed except for his fragile ego.
Bruce Dern plays everyone’s worst nightmare as a boss. When boarding Macy’s ship, Macy welcomes him aboard and Dern responds, “Just what is that suppose to mean.” If you ever wanted to see the ill effects of the reverse of Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart, Dern’s character is a great example.
Lauren Holly beautifully portrays the first woman officer on a submarine. She is the object of much desire and derision early on but becomes the hero with Grammer’s help as you see a great illustration of Enabling Others to Act.
Rip Torn, as the good admiral, sets up the test as a means of Challenging the Process for Grammer’s promotion opportunity. He seems to get just as much enjoyment from Grammer’s success as Dern’s failure.
Grammer plays his role as easy as Frasier Crane. He masterfully goes outside the box while Inspiring a Shared Vision and Challenges the Process with artful innovation and with a bit of a scary (only in the movies) situation.
Of course, unlike your workplace, this is Hollywood and so it all comes out perfectly (except for Dern).
One of the best ways to use films like this is to share it with your team during a half-day gathering. Then use the time immediately after to discuss their observations and how it might relate to your workplace.
Don’t forget the popcorn.