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Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

Juror Number Eight

Successful leaders are individuals who are able to change the minds, feelings, and actions of others who are typically thought of as "followers." As a young person, I learned a lot about leadership from watching the 1957 jury room drama, Twelve Angry Men. The entire movie takes places in a swelteringly hot jury room, where the dozen jurors are trying to decide on the guilt or innocence of a young boy who is accused of murdering his father.

Initially, the jury is overwhelmingly disposed toward conviction. But over the course of the two hours of the movie, Juror #8 (played by Henry Fonda) succeeds in convincing the others that the accused youth is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He does so with a keen sense of when argument, questioning, silence, empathy, are appropriate, and when another tack should be used. He also comes off as a reasonable person, not a demagogue or ideologue, one whose evaluation deserve consideration.

I think that anyone who would like to change the minds of others can gain lessons from this movie, and I'd suggest that Barack Obama and his advisers take a night off to watch it....particularly before they invite the opposition to the White House.

Of course, it does not hurt that the movie was directed by Sidney Lumet, and stars Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, and Martin Balsam among others. A movie like that is worth watching, even if it does not change anyone's minds!

By Howard Gardner

 |  February 17, 2009; 11:31 AM ET
Category:  Pop culture Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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