"We Happy Few"
Hands down, our choice is Henry V, the 1989 file directed and starring by Kenneth Branagh based on William Shakespeare's play about the callow English king who invaded France in 1415. The pivotal event is the battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415, when the English pulled off a stunning victory over a superior French force.
King Henry, just 27 years old, led the English invasion. On the eve of battle, Henry initiates the first walk-around-management (codified more than 500 years later by the management best-seller, In Search of Excellence) by visiting campfires in disguise - "a touch of Harry in the night." He finds his officers and soldiers totally demoralized.
The next morning, minutes before the battle begins, he incorporates what he learned the night before to give one of the greatest motivational speech in history. It's now known as the St. Crispin's Day speech.
Three qualities of that speech stand out, all with merits for overcoming the long odds of the current crisis. First, Henry turned deficit into asset. With the English soldiers outnumbered by five to one or more, the king turns the odds upside down, arguing that to have more soldiers would require a sharing of the triumph that is about to be theirs:
The fewer men, the greater share of honor.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more....
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Second, he brings the future into the present. With the battle just minutes away, the king paints a vision of future glory that will be achieved through victory in battle
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Third, he transforms vision into reality to achieve that future. Henry V assumes victory and paints a picture of what the future will be like after their stunning performance, an outcome that can only be achieved if they rally together:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
Note: This post was co-authored with On Leadership panelist Michael Useem.
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