A few days ago I had the great opportunity to spend five days with John C. Maxwell and my fellow leadership coaches and the John Maxwell Team faculty. A few of us who are in a mentorship program spent one day with him watching the movie Braveheart and uncovering the leadership principles in the movie. (Side note: can ya’ll believe that movie came out in 1995?? Almost twenty years goes by fast. I remember watching it with my dad as a teenager and really loving it and talking about the passion that William Wallace had for his people as a leader. My dad was an amazing leader himself who I was blessed to learn from in the first 19 years of my life. I wish he was still here.)
So fast forward to present day and I got to watch it again, this time with the #1 leadership guru in the world, John Maxwell. So many great discussions happened in that day that I cannot cover it all here, but I want to share the biggest takeaway that I took from the experience and the leadership lessons from the movie.
First, here is brief overview of what Braveheart is about - William Wallace is the main character who leads a grass roots revolution in Scotland against England in the 13th century. He begins with just a few followers that turns into a revolution and although he sacrifices his life for the cause, the momentum he started continued and the Scots continue to fight and win their freedom. There is a lot more in the plot and and the fight scenes are pretty gruesome, so beware weak stomachs, but there is some amazing dialogue and really great story telling in this film. I cried off and on throughout the whole movie because of the passion, dedication and servant leadership Wallace showed in the film. I couldn’t even talk with my table mates about my takeaways for at least five minutes because I was still crying. Now on to the lessons I learned from the experience and movie...
Leaders Evaluate Life
The thing that John did so masterfully at the end was engage us by asking our individual takeaways, what we thought was the #1 most important leadership lesson from the movie. Mine was: Leadership is about sacrifice and service to people, especially your people. This is important to note because this activity got us exercising our thinking skills to evaluate what we had just experienced in a meaningful way and how it translates into daily life. This is something that he encouraged us to do as leaders on a daily basis: at the end of each day, spend 10-15 minutes evaluating the lessons you have learned from the day. Do a daily debrief and think into what the day has taught you and how you will apply the new learning to your life. Leaders evaluate life.
Transformational Leaders Inspire Others
After we each stated our individual takeaways at our tables, we synthesized our responses to one response from our table. Then we broke for lunch and John spent his lunch break compiling 25 table’s responses into a few themes and created one sentence with the biggest lessons from the movie. Those themes were: sacrifice, cause, passion, legacy, courage = transformational leadership.
“Transformation that endures requires a leader to possess a calling that gives clarity, a cause that instills courage and a moral authority that influences others.” He then elaborated...Moral authority is when your walk and talk match, which is different than positional authority. Moral authority doesn’t require a title. Wallace didn’t have a title, he wasn’t even a noble, he just led by example. Wallace’s calling was leadership, but his cause was freedom. The cause of freedom gave him and his followers passion and courage, enough to sacrifice their lives for it. This along with his greatest asset, his mind, gave him influence. He was able to think into how to win battles and strategize, and inspire others to follow him, eventually transforming his country.
Wallace was a great leader, but he did make mistakes along the way. Some of those lapses in leadership and judgement ended up getting him killed. We discussed at length all the leaders in the film and their greatest assets and weaknesses, but I won’t cover all of it here. I will say the movie is well worth your time to watch it, maybe with your leadership team, and do a deep debrief. I took away a list of questions to ask myself in order to become a better leader. These questions might be of help to you too in your journey of leadership development.
Have you seen the movie? If so, I’d love to hear your biggest leadership lessons you learned from the film!
P.S. The movie was heavy, but John likes to have a good time....He dressed up for the occasion!
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