For Sachit Jain, managing director of Vardhman Special Steels, watching a film isn’t just a way to unwind and relax. “Movies are thrilling, but they also provide leadership lessons if you take a closer look at them, or re-watch them,” says the head of the company that is a leading manufacturer of alloy steels for the automotive sector.
Regardless of where one is on the management ladder, self-improvement and developing leadership skills are important, Jain believes. Most people turn to books for these lessons, but Jain prefers to draw management lessons from films and apply them at work.
At a training programme he attended at IMD Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2009, the instructor used film clips to illustrate a point. At the session, the instructor played a clip from Invictus, the 2009 sports drama starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Jain hadn’t heard of the film before but watched the whole thing on the flight from Zurich to Delhi. He realized it held more lessons than just the one the instructor had highlighted. It’s now second nature to look for lessons in every movie he watches.
“Invictus captures the essence of what inspirational leadership is, and what it can achieve. I learnt how to overcome personal hurt and rise to the bigger cause. I learnt how to come to terms with emotions. Instead of fighting with them, work with them. Plus, of course, one gets leadership lessons from the life of Nelson Mandela,” he explains.
Jain, an alumnus of IIT Delhi, IIM Ahmedabad and Harvard Business School, also holds workshops on the lessons he has learnt from powerful films. He did his first workshop with Invictus in 2012 and has since done 25 such workshops in different locations for his organization.
During the workshop, he screens the film, starts a discussion afterwards, and steers the conversation to the lessons he believes the movie is delivering. “I use a variety of movies to challenge my staff, and showcase a wide variety of leadership lessons. Lessons can range from individual skill techniques to the application of values and character traits in effective leadership,” he says. “When someone sees a movie, the lessons enter subconsciously, and the discussion helps reinforce the idea and adds clarity,” Jain says.
The combination of entertaining visual display, discussion, application and interaction make for a powerful and enjoyable learning approach. “It is very effective. It works every time and I plan to continue using this technique. People are in a relaxed mood after seeing a movie and imbibe a lesson when they see it play out in a practical manner in the film. Second, films appeal to younger staff accustomed to television/digital images,” he says.
There were challenges in the beginning. “I realised what was obvious to me was often lost on others as most people find it difficult to look at movies as anything more than entertainment. I also realised that English was a barrier, and switched to Hindi movies, beginning with Man Pasand, Basu Chatterjee’s take on My Fair Lady starring Dev Anand and Tina Munim,” he says. “My Fair Lady and Man Pasand teach you how to set high expectations and help people reach their true potential.”
Jain uses the 1970s Rajesh Khanna film Bawarchi to teach conflict resolution and team work, and the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Chak De! India to charge teams up. The other sports films that he says hold messages about purpose, dedication, motivation and diligence are Denzel Washington’s Remember The Titans and Tom Cruise’s hit, Jerry Maguire.
Jain’s other hobbies are golf, teaching, writing and high altitude trekking. “Finding the time to fit everything in can be tough, but I watch at least one movie a week. Some films turn out to be vehicles of change at the workplace,” he says.
Jain also watches films with family and friends, and often at home on streaming services. “Watching movies helps me stay relaxed. It is a huge stress buster, and gives me the downtime I need. That’s the biggest lesson of all, for everyone: it is important to have a balanced life, and keep time for things you enjoy doing,” he says.
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