How to Use the Movies for Leaders Program

Movies for Leaders™ uses popular films to teach organizational leadership, with particular focus on leadership in business.  Popular films on videotape or DVD are a ready source of management training material. Our program can be used for self-study or as part of one-on-one corporate training programs. You can purchase our Study Guides online or buy one of our two collections from our online bookstore or from amazon.com. Movies featured in our guides have been culled from a list of more than 300 movies reviewed by the authors. New Study Guides are offered on a regular basis.

How We Choose the Movies

The selection of movies used in the program is based on five criteria:

  • Availability. If you can’t readily find a selected film on Blu-Ray, DVD, VHS or as a digital download, chances are you won’t be interested in studying it.
  • Entertainment quality. Six of the movies - High NoonGodfather IGodfather II, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Wizard of Oz, and Citizen Kane – were recently chosen among the 100 Greatest Films of All Time by the American Film Institute. Citizen Kane was the No. 1 film on the list, with Godfather and Oz making the Top 10. Hoosiers, though not on the AFI list, was selected in July 1998 as the favorite all-time sports film by USA Today readers.
  • Variety. We have striven throughout to find a mix of movies: new and old; comedy, drama and action; U.S. and foreign (The Efficiency Expert is Australian); westerns (High Noon); gangster films (Godfather series and Bugsy); military (Zulu and Kwai); documentaries (Roger & Me); well-known (Citizen Kane); and less-known (The Efficiency Expert).
  • Quality of Business Lessons. The selected movies provide multiple discussion points centered on multiple scenes in the movie. They cover virtually all areas and topics related to modern business practice – and the lessons are applicable to businesses of all sizes.
  • Suitability for workplace application. With noted exceptions, the movies selected are appropriate to recommend to colleagues or employees with little likelihood they will give offense—and potential issue’s increasing politically-correct workplace. Ten of the movies – more than one-third – carry ratings of G or PG (or were released before the rating system came along, but would clearly fall within the G/PG range). Most of the other films are rated PG-13, and none carries a rating higher than R. The authors list specific cautioning for readers about extreme scenes of violence (Godfather series, Bugsy); adult situations (Bugsy, Wall Street); language (Glengarry Glen Ross); and possible issues of racial/ethnic/lifestyle slurs (Glengarry Glen Ross and Zulu) at the beginning of each Guide.

Real Business vs. “Reel” Business

Shaun O’L. Higgins, Colleen Striegel and other contributing writers approach their subject with wit and humor, noting throughout  their guides the differences between reel business and real business.

Each Study Guide section opens with an introductory paragraph that helps readers imagine themselves in management situations that emulate those presented in that Guide’s film(s). In the case of movies about business, this is a matter of simply encapsulating the underlying issues. In the case of non-business movies such as Hoosiers and Zulu, the opening sections provides a bridge between the world of the film and similar situations in business.

Our study guides assume that readers have viewed or will actually view the movie. Rather than using detailed movie summaries, the authors’ commentary usually refers only to the specific scenes relevant to the business or management principle being stressed.  Guides are not always “spoiler” free,  so watching the movie before referring to the guides is recommended.

Each Movie gets Three Ratings

Given the reasonable assumption that managers attracted to the program will have an above-average interest in movies, each movie “pony” features an abbreviated list of movie credits. Some Guides feature anecdotal information about a film. In most cases, movies are given three ratings: the MPPA Audience Rating (such as PG), the author(s)’ entertainment value rating (ranging from 1 to 5 attaché cases), and the authors’ Business Value Rating (BVR), indicating the type and level of manager for whom it will have most value. A BVR of M5, for example, indicates the movie is particularly valuable for senior marketing executives.

Designed for Random Access: Short Takes and Breakout Boxes

Most guides are 4,500 to 6,000 words in length, but written in short takes, maximizing random access. The user may enter each Guide at any main-text division, without having to refer back to previous sections. Main-text sections range from 300 to 500 words in length. Charts and breakout boxes (sidebars) are also used to add graphic impact and further randomize the access process. Each Guide also includes breakout boxes on sub-topics dealing with the movie or the business topic being covered. These boxes further empower the reader to mine the book for nuggets of useful information. Breakout boxes include expanded definitions of terms and concepts, checklists of dos and don’ts, examples of how the lesson has played out in real business situations, analytical tools, and anecdotal movie or historical information. Three or more breakout boxes accompany each movie. Each box ranges in length from 200 to 800 words.

How This Experience-Based Program Came to Be

The program is based on the creators’ own experience in using movies to train employees, particularly new managers. Several years ago, author  and program co-creator Shaun O’L. Higgins began routinely recommending movies to managers as a fast-track method of broadening their expertise. Usually these managers had come from liberal-arts backgrounds and required a deeper understanding of the business world. Higgins would suggest that the manager rent a movie and view it at home. Sometimes he would rent the movie himself and send it home with the manager, accompanied by a package of microwave popcorn. Once the movie was viewed, Higgins and the manager would discuss the issues raised by the film and clarify the differences between real business and reel business. In addition to direct applications, Higgins has used movie references in many of his popular presentations to advertising, marketing and media audiences around the globe.

Who Benefits from the Program?

The primary audience consists of managers who like movies and movie buffs who happen to be managers. There are hundreds of thousands of these people. Each year more than 750 million movie tickets are sold and more than 1.5 billion videos are rented for home viewing. According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 18 million managers, administrators and supervisors in the United States alone.

The secondary audience for our program is corporate trainers.  Moviesforleaders.com provides new and adaptable tools for training employees in an off-hours, at-home setting.

A third audience exists among movie fans who are more interested in the program’s film criticism aspects than its use as a training guide. In fact,  Movies for Leaders ™is currently one of the few sources for critiques of movies that approaches them leadership and business movies as a film genre.

Movies for Leaders™ is particularly aimed at new managers who have had limited exposure to B-school training. Corporate trainers find this group particularly hard to reach with mundane corporate training films.

Don’t Take Our Word for IT…See for Yourself!

We’re so certain that you’ll find Movies for Leaders™ a worthwhile training program, that we offer your first lesson for FREE – with no obligation to purchase anything from us in the future. Just download our  Leadership Guide to The Wizard of Oz – perhaps the best leadership-training film of all time.

The Wizard of Oz is one of four movies examined in our book, Movies for Leaders: Management Lessons from Four All-Time Great Films, now in its third printing and available in paperback format for only $14.95. Lessons can also be accessed as separate Study Guides on this site. Books are available online from our online store.