Over the Top

My son Cameron and I had a boys’ night out last night.  We went to the local cinema at the Waterfront to see Sam Mendes’s First World War film 1917.  It is not just a film; it is an experience.  You feel as if you are in the trenches and crossing No Man’s Land with Schofield and Blake and then in the burning fires of Hell with Schofield.  It is a doomsday mission for the two Lance Corporals with Blake meeting his when we least expected it. The film is tense, thrilling, dramatic, poignant, shocking, emotional and sad.  And the experts on trench warfare tell us it is realistic too.  Both Cameron and I were moved by the experience because that is what it was – an experience.

That experience has had me thinking this morning about leadership.  The two young Lance Corporals embarked upon the doomsday mission, one having been given the task because of his skills in map reading and pathfinding and the other he selected as his companion.  The officer had given the order which they followed.  

My reflection had me thinking about my years working for people who were my bosses.  The military imperative for following orders was never there but an analogy came into my mind and it this.  I had many bosses over the years for whom I would have gone (figuratively) over the top, without question or hesitation, because I trusted them and their judgement, I believed in them, respected them, shared their beliefs and values.  There are a few others that I would have (figuratively) taken the chance of the Court Martial and possible firing squad.  I would not have gone over.

Why?  In the case of the first group, I would have gone over for them; in the case of the second group, I would not have gone over for them.  For them – because people follow people, not policies, processes, management circulars.  So, all this led me to think – people follow people. If you have a leadership role, make sure you role model your beliefs and values and treat other people well.


  1. I like your analogy Iain and I completely agree. My experience mirrors yours. My most talented colleagues know and instinctively default to winning people over first. In my experience the best line managers know their staff inside out. Knowing Birthdays, kids’ names, etc all help win respect.


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