Learning from Movies: Kelly’s Heroes

Posted on March 21, 2011

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Back in 1970, during the Vietnam War, MGM made a WWII anti-war war movie. It starred an eclectic mix of actors including Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Donald Sutherland, Gavin MacLeod, Stuart Margolin, and Harry Dean Stanton. It’s one of my favorite films. When I was in the First Gulf War, we all wanted to be Donald Sutherland’s character, Oddball. We sincerely believed that Western Union offices in Iraq had gold in them, and had serious discussions about how to hide the gold in our tanks and bring it home.

  • Opportunity appears in the worst of times.
    • Real leaders always look for opportunity, even when rain and artillery fire is coming down in equal measure.
  • The guy who took the blame for senior management’s mistake might just be the guy who saves the day.
  • Forcing people is not leading.
    • Leadership is inspiring exhausted, frightened, people to find motivation and courage in themselves.
  • No matter how motivated or aggressive your leaders are, nothing happens until the rank-and-file find a reason to be heroes.
  • Don’t hit me with them negative waves so early in the morning. Think the bridge will be there, and it will be there. It’s a mother, beautiful bridge, and it’s gonna be there.
  • Keep an eye out for leadership teams in the ranks.
    • Sometimes you need one person to have vision and inspiration, and a hard-ass to maintain discipline and keep everyone focused on the task at hand.
  • The Tiger is an open-country tank.
    • Maneuver to maximize your strengths, and negate your competition’s.
  • I only ride in ‘em. I don’t know what makes ‘em work.
    • Let your experts do their jobs, and be ready to do yours when the time comes.
  • With so many positive waves, maybe we just can’t lose.
  • Business is business. It’s never too late to negotiate a deal.
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