Real Leaders

Crying in Movies Can Improve Your Leadership

I know you feel guilty or unproductive when watching a movie or TV series. We’re all hounded by the moral imperative to work, produce and earn our place in the world. But the truth is, movies help us grow on a personal level, and in so doing, make us better leaders.

Some say storytelling was a crucial factor in human evolution, particularly during the so-called Great Leap, 60,000 to 70,000 years ago, when our tools and hunting techniques became more sophisticated. Art and design emerged in everything we made. Passing along knowledge and know-how through myths and storytelling helped us learn from each other, copying and improving within a tribe, and eventually, as a species.

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Once we began telling stories, we never stopped. In the digital era, we stream magnificent movies across the globe. New releases go viral instantly. Every journal and blog picks up on the same scenes and characters to share in the excitement and revel in the viral emotion across millions of screens. More than ever before, we pulse together to the rhythm of the same suspense, joy, fear and triumph.

What’s interesting about screen-enabled stories is that we can all react freely to them without being watched by anybody else. It’s like coaching over Skype versus face to face. When a client is alone in their office or home, and I’m no more than a talking head on their screen, another level of depth, intimacy and emotion takes place. At some instinctive level, my client’s body feels more alone and less threatened by a physical presence. It lets go of things you would typically keep close to your heart. This is what movies do for us so well.

Most executives have no clue what their bodies feel. They can’t remember the last time they cried. When asked how they feel their response is usually “fine” or “great.” They have become top executives in large companies or daring business owners precisely because their deeper feelings stay contained and hidden. No matter what danger or peril surround these men and women, they always feel “fine” or “great.” Until a scene in a film catches them by surprise!

It’s always the stories and situations that resonate with our unresolved emotions which pull a tear or jerk a shiver from us. Individual characters, challenges or twists in storylines resonate with our most profound, wild selves, with personal issues that most hinder our response to personal and professional situations. They move us in ways we will remember and refer back to for months; even years.

In watching stories about fathers and sons, daughters and mothers, lovers, friends or partners in crime, we awaken from our obliviousness to emotion. We resonate in surprising ways. We melt on some level to become more vulnerable and sensitive. And we grow into better people and better leaders.

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