Images of Leadership competition winners

On 14th November, Personnel Today asked readers to nominate their favourite celluloid examples of leadership. The winning entries are listed below.

Interestingly, two of the five winning nominations (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) are films co-penned by horror writer Stephen King.

The five winners below each win vouchers worth £20 to spend on videos or DVDs.


Sharon Smith, personnel officer, Halifax chose

Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks)

Film: The Green Mile

USA 1999

Director: Frank Darabont

“My example of good leadership is The Green Mile with Tom Hanks playing the part of Paul Edgecomb in charge of death row. The film showed how in a quiet but forceful way he inspired the others on his team to follow him and to emulate his behaviour. This approach kept a difficult situation under control without needing to use any forced control over the team. He showed them how the gentle approach worked better than ‘control and tell’ and they followed his lead as they could see how successful it was. They respected him and risked their jobs for him.”


Keith Watkins, self-employed management development consultant chose

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins)

Film: The Shawshank Redemption

USA 1994

Director: Frank Darabont:

“For his self-belief, determination, the ability to see the bigger picture, stick to long term goals in the face of severe adversity, inspire by example and eventually get out of jail.”


Brian Tomlinson, resource & planning, Jarvis Rail chose

William Wallace (Mel Gibson)

Film: Braveheart

USA 1995

Director: Mel Gibson

“Against the backdrop of a nation oppressed, an individual fights for the common good following personal tragedy. William Wallace becomes a leader by default but he is prepared to suffer for his people without compromise and ultimately die for what he believed in. This self sacrifice encouraged others to follow where Wallace had led. I am sure the film embellished history for the benefit of the film, but the movie inspired me and I imagine many others, not least the Scots.”


Mark Pearce, financial controller, Craik Jones chose

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake)

Film: Hairspray

USA 1988

Director: John Waters

“Tracy Turnblad is an inspirational teenage ‘hair hopper’ whose sense of the injustice of racial segregation in 1962 Baltimore results in the end of the “whites only” policy of the popular local TV show, The Corny Collins Show. Tracy’s crusade is relentless in spite of the risk that she will fail to win the coveted title of Miss Autoshow 1963 to her monied and self-seeking rival, Amber von Tussle .”


Alexander Wallis, project manager, Woodward Lewis chose

Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne)

Film: The Matrix

USA 1999

Director: Andy Wachowski

“The character of Morpheus demonstrates an inspirational leadership style that emphasises personal choice and accountability, and notably ‘thinking outside the box’. In a kind of surreal job interview, Morpheus invites his potential employee Neo (Keanu Reeves) to make a choice about whether to join Morpheus’ team and share their values. The decision is represented by Neo having to choose between taking one of two different pills.

“During this interview, Neo is put under no pressure to exaggerate his suitability for the role, but to consider whether it is truly right for him and make an informed choice. Nor does Morpheus provide any illusions about the difficulty of the role, instead he discusses the consequences of joining the team and invites Neo to contemplate his own suitability. Morpheus’ commitment to the shared cause is demonstrated in his willingness to sacrifice his own life rather than jeopardise what the team have been working for. Few managers will be forced to make that choice, but it represents commitment to shared team ideals above personal interests.

“In Morpheus’ moment of danger, we see that in his absence his team have been left motivated and committed by his example. It is a tribute to his leadership that, facing this situation, Neo and Trinity begin to realise their full potential and demonstrate their own inherited commitment to the mission.

“Of course Morpheus is not meant to be the character’s real name, borrowed as it is from the mythical god of dreams. Nevertheless this ‘title’ does relate to his own role of waking people from an enforced sleep. It might be interesting to see real-life managers adopt similarly evocative job titles.”

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