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The King’s Speech – Leadership Lessons

With the King’s Speech sweeping the board again at the Oscars and BAFTAs what leadership lessons can we take from the  film? As a Leader, is it difficult for you to admit to vulnerability, stress or a skills gap? Do you believe that you can’t change or perhaps you have deep rooted issues that are impossible to change?

“The King’s Speech” is a film about the relationship between a stammering George VI (Colin Firth) and his personal coach, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) as they work together to help him resolve his problem. It has great lessons on becoming motivated to change in times of extreme stress. It also shows us a system’s perspective on some of the difficulties of change. There are perverse incentives for his contemporaries to keep him the same. In the film, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Derek Jacobi) enjoys patronising the King and so attempts to get rid of Lionel. The same can apply to team members – perhaps where a manager has no emotional intelligence, or can’t give praise, or is lofty and remote – and may seem to justify the exaggerated whining and helplessness in which some subordinates may indulge.

Central to the success of the process is the King becoming more and more open with Lionel. This is shown as the most important element and develops from the King feeling able to say anything without being judged. Lionel also refuses to be impressed by royalty and treats the King as an equal – fostering a healthy relationship. He insists that the King must come to his consulting rooms in Harley Street, where he is confident he can provide a safe place to explore solutions, some of them quite unorthodox.

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