Friday, November 8, 2013

Business Leadership for HR à la James Bond

© Ron Villejo, PhD
What can James Bond teach us about leadership?  A good amount, I'd say.  

Sixty years since Ian Fleming created the character, and 23 films in the meantime, the super suave and skilled agent is a film legend and a cultural icon.  I introduced my paradigm in some detail - Business Leadership as an HR Responsibility - but let's draw on Mr. Shaken, Not Stirred's latest to expound on this, shall we.  

Ben Whishaw as Q
Q is the Data Geek in Skyfall, who basically owns systems and analytics for the British Secret Intelligence Service - better known as MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6).  He thinks he knows more than he actually does, but he's a staffer who can be counted on to do what James Bond tells him to do.  In a similar vein, HR houses information, pushes metrics, and must do as the business directs them.

Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Eve Moneypenny is the Underrated Beauty in Skyfall, and with a name like hers we see why.  Like Q, she does what she is told.  But as the film progresses, we see that she has interpersonal savvy and seductive airs about her.  She is not a leader, but like HR, she is deployed to the field.  Over time HR recognized the need to work elbow-to-elbow with their colleagues in the business.

Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory
Gareth Mallory is the Proper Liaison between Parliament and MI6 in Skyfall.  He must contend with the proud M, as he tries to persuade her to retire.  To be sure, he has a high seat in government, yet we sense that his authority and influence are rather constrained.  Even at this level, HR struggles to shed its tactical role and must maneuver a fairly narrow bandwidth for decision-making.  Still, being a partner to the highers-up in the company is something to aspire to.

Dame Judi Dench as M
Like many aging CEOs, M is the Recalcitrant Leader who fiercely holds on to her post and draws lyrically on poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson to defend MI6's continued existence.  She knows what the game is all about, and is ruthless enough to entice then manipulate her agents to serve her purpose.  Many may argue that women have to be this tough, in order to advance to high leadership.  HR, too, has had to fight tooth and nail to rise in the organization, but it may be the rare HR professional who actually becomes a business leader.

So where does James Bond himself fit in this paradigm?
Daniel Craig as James Bond and The Vitruvian Man
James Bond is himself an aging agent in Skyfall.  He fails physical and psychological tests, but M forces him back into field anyway.  He fulfills his duties in ways a tactician does, and charms himself into the relational graces of women.  He may not be the partner that Parliament wants to admit to, but he serves his country rather well.  Then, he takes situational leadership away from M, in order to save her, the old family estate gamekeeper Kincade, and himself.

So in the end, James Bond may be an overarching figure for this HR paradigm.  Leonardo Da Vinci drew The Vitruvian Man as if to represent the ideal symmetry.  In effect, then, HR needs such a leader, who, like James Bond, can endure for decades and carry the mantle of that ideal forward.  

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

1 comment:

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