I recently saw the movie Mister Roberts. It stars two of my favorite actors: Jimmy Cagney and Henry Fonda. I love Jack Lemmon’s character as well. The movie is about the turmoil of a crew with an unlovable commander. It is a comedy. The movie juxtaposes two leaders: Cagney’s character is the commander who has authority but no respect. Fonda’s character has the admiration and respect of the crew, but no (little) authority. The two roles (characters) taught me something about isolation and insulation.
Cagney’s character was isolated. He didn’t interact with the crew. He was the leader but only in position. No one liked or respected him. They followed his orders out of fear or possible retribution. Cagney thought there was a team, there wasn’t. Although isolated from them, he was not insulated. The result was a mutiny – of sorts.
Fonda’s character was insulated but not isolated. He heard the crew’s complaints, commiserated with them and worked to solve problems. He didn’t isolate himself. Rather he was a part of the team, even through dire circumstances. By being a part of the team Fonda was insulated from the problems Cagney brought upon himself. Fonda’s character was loved and respected. The men fought for him.
’It is lonely at the top’, goes the old saying. This is true for the type of leader who isolates himself/herself from their people. The leader that associates, identifies, cares for and loves their people will be insulated from the horrors of loneliness.
Points to Ponder –
How would you define “isolate” and “insulate” with regard to leadership?
How important is it for a leader to be a part of the team? Or is it more about authority?
How important is popularity to leadership?
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