The Godfather's Lessons for Leadership - IEDP
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The Godfather's Lessons for Leadership

Thursday 16 December 2010


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Is a selection of clips from blockbuster movies the new, timesaving alternative to dense case studies when teaching executive education?

Just as business climates around the world have witnessed major changes in recent years, so too have teaching methods used in business schools. More and more schools are introducing approaches to learning that stray away from traditional styles, and encourage students to think “outside-of-the-box,” such as the approach of Dr. Allègre Hadida at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. A lecturer in strategy, Hadida claims that clips from popular Hollywood films can be used as an effective tool when teaching management and leadership-related matters.

She uses clips from The Godfather to demonstrate diversification in a family business; Gladiator to show the implementation of a functional strategy; Jerry Maguire to illustrate the concept of values, and many more. Her students include corporate executives, who she says she often takes out of their “comfort zones [and uses] visual elements like movies or graphic novels to make them reflect on what are business-related situations, yet depicted in different settings.”

Though not traditionally popular for its underlying business lessons, upon further examination it appears that The Godfather does indeed cover a number of important topics in this context. The main character, Don Vito Corleone is an entrepreneur, whose son, Michael Corleone, works hard to expand the businesses he takes on as successor in a tough climate. In this setting, the themes of loyalty, competition, improvisation and “thinking big” are all explored. Even the film’s most famous quote (“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”) highlights an important skill required of executives today – negotiation.

Reporting on Hadida’s teaching style, Parminder Bahra of Wall Street Journal also agreed that “there are many examples from the arts where business issues are raised.” So perhaps Hadida is on to something. Are movies, and the arts in general, the new alternative to reading lengthy academic case studies to understand key business topics?

As more and more executives are looking into leadership development programs, innovative and time-efficient teaching methods will certainly become a priority for them. This makes Hadida’s creative approach a welcome addition to the increasing executive education options available today.


“We deliver executive education experiences to develop the skills and mindsets that push forward the boundaries of value creation.”

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