The Bridge on The River Kwai
August 5, 2012
Shekhar Gahlot (ICS Hitotsubashi, Tokyo, Japan)
Leadership Analysis: The Bridge on the River Kwai
The year: 1943.
The place: Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Burma.
In the setting of World War II, a defeated unit British Soldiers is marched into a Japanese prison camp in western Thailand, with the purpose of constructing a bridge over the River Kwai to carry a new railway line to invade Burma. The camp is run by a dutiful commandant Colonel Saito and his men. The British troop is led by a stiff-lipped Colonel Nicholson. Nicholson is highly revered by his men, he is their friend and confidant; he can do them ...view middle of the document...
On the other hand Colonel Nicholson acts as an indirect influencer by refusing to succumb to the demands of the Japanese. To the naked eye his refusal to work alongside his man may seem ridiculous, but his not giving in serves as an inspiration to his men.
In the following paragraphs I have tried to further analyze the lead character of Colonel Nicholson from leadership perspective and its result for the individual and FOR THE ORGANIZATION.
According to us one of the most important lessons that can be learnt from this movie is “When execution takes priority over strategy, the results can't help being catastrophic”.
A leader is never a loud or a boastful person, most of the times he is calm and a swift talker. A Leader is able to cope with myriad of pressures and has the strength and courage to take decisions and to guide his team out of crisis situations, he has the ability to influence and motivate his people to deliver their best even in troubled times. A leader needs to play the role of a negotiator, a strategist, a manager, and an executioner. He always tries to keep away his temptations and to maintain equilibrium between the role plays. As ‘Bent Flyvbjerg’ pointed out in ‘Making Social Science Matter’, a leader should not hesitate to ask questions to his team and to him “Where are we going?” “Who gains, who loses, and by which mechanisms of power?” “Is this development desirable?” “What should we do about it?”.
Throughout the movie Colonel Nicholson presents himself as a controlled (Except for the last part where he jumps on the dynamite to save the bridge, his pride), organized and result oriented leader. He utilized, to perfection, The Head and The Hand co-ordination, Head being the intellectual part while hand being the experience amassed through years of maintaining British Empire. He showed the exemplary qualities of a leader by focusing on the people, by inspiring them, influencing them, by motivating them, by setting the direction and creating a vision for his team. He and his team were able to complete the insurmountable task of building the bridge in scheduled time. But his overbearing pride made him oblivious to the end result and throughout the course he forgot to ask himself the most important question ‘Was all that for his own personal sense of achievement or for the better good of the society to which he is abided by the law’. By successfully building the bridge, on one hand he uplifted the mood of his men from the feeling of being prisoners but on the other hand he strengthened the supply chain of the enemy and thus developed a catastrophic outcome from the strategy point of view.
If we refer to historical notes and apply the theory of wisdom by classic Greek philosopher, Aristotle, to the Colonel Nicholson’s character then we would experience some interesting insights. Theory of wisdom is broadly classified in two theories,...