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Leadership Lessons from "Kings Speech" Director Tom Hooper

Leadership Lessons from "Kings Speech" Director Tom Hooper

Matt Charney | MonsterThinking

March 01, 2011

MT: Often times, there seems to be little interaction in business between the C-Suite and the workers on the front lines. What can leaders learn from Bertie’s experience in moving out of his class and comfort zone?

TH: Here’s the thing: no leader can ever do it alone. You have to find your own Lionel Logue, the person who can unlock you. In the case of King George, it’s his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) and Logue who ultimately become the keys to his greatness.

Many people think that being a great leader is about doing things independently, making decisions, and the results may be fine. By reaching out, listening, seeing who supports you, leaders may well achieve the best version of themselves, one that wouldn’t be possible alone.

This has been the theme of quite a lot of my work. In my last film, The Damn United, this football manager, Brian Clough, realizes that his greatness comes from placing his full trust in his assistant manager. Similarly, in [Emmy Winning HBO Mini-Series] John Adams, he really wouldn’t have been much without Abigail.

You can only achieve your best work reaching out and trusting in people. As a director, I live this every day; you’re only as great as the people you surround yourself with.

MT: How do you think leaders should go about finding their foils, so to speak? In The King’s Speech, Bertie seems to come to Logue almost by happenstance, brought there under duress by his wife, Elizabeth. Are these types of relationships luck, or is there more to it than that?

TH: Well, I don’t know if I’d call it happenstance. Logue was the last card in the box of posh speech therapists, and from the beginning, he and the Queen consistently look for help to overcome his stammer. So while it ultimately works out, it’s not about luck; rather, there’s a lesson in perseverance and keeping at it, at all your options.

Also, Bertie didn’t pretend he didn’t have a problem. He was willing to admit it and seek help, and when he found it, it really saved him. He could have been consumed by being too ego-centric. I don’t know if there’s a moral for that, but if you have a weak point, you should look for someone whose skills can compliment that hole in your armament.

The one quality, though, I’d say both the Queen and Logue is that they share, for Bertie, a selfless love. They aren’t coming in with a whole set of complex or selfish motivations; they genuinely are out for his own good and actually want to build him up. I’d say that’s key: leaders need to find people they’re not only close to, but who are committed to advancing the greater good, rather than their own personal interests.

Next: Lessons for New Leaders >>

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