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An Initiation into Power

It's Oscar time! With our collective attention on Hollywood the betting has begun on who will win the awards. Campaigns for the best ‘this' and ‘that' are heating up. So is the chat around water coolers, websites and dining tables worldwide.

On February 27, the live broadcast will be televised in over 200 countries! Featured amongst the nominees is an unusual movie called The King's Speech.

Most commentators classify this film as "period drama" which of course is correct. It is also applauded as heartfelt, hilariously funny and filled with strong performances, especially those of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The King's Speech has a wonderful script and is fine, emotional filmmaking. It is a powerful contender in every category for which it is nominated.

Here's what has largely been over-looked and why this film is unusual: this is one of the best contemporary portraits of a person being initiated into power. Every leader, no matter what level of the organization they work in, should see this film for that reason alone.

Let me explain.

Colin Firth makes his first appearance in the film as Prince Albert, a stammering, tongue-tied, isolated man embarrassed by his own deficiencies.

We witness his struggle with public speaking, an excruciating depiction of someone so traumatized that they cannot deliver scripted remarks in public.

Anyone who has ever had to speak publicly recognizes that it can be one of the most challenging of leadership responsibilities. But Prince Albert's terror is agonizing to behold. This is everyone's worst nightmare of blowing it publicly and repeatedly.

"Bertie" is second in line to the throne, the younger brother of Edward, a confident, dashing and self-centered figure. When Edward decides to abdicate his throne for the "women he loves" Bertie, his opposite, is thrust headlong into a role he does not want but must assume. All of this happens at the worst possible time: the rise of Hitler's Germany and the commencement of World War Two.

The film focuses on Bertie's transformation from a reluctant, struggling underachiever to King George VI, an inspirational leader of wartime Britain.

  The Three Powers

In her book The Four-Fold Way, Angeles Arrien identifies three powers of leadership:

  • the power of presence;
  • the power of communication;
  • the power of position.

The King's Speech dramatizes Bertie's initiatory journey to earn each power. With the help of Lionel Logue, an unorthodox speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush, Bertie learns that he must first face himself before he can face an audience.

Logue is the classic mythological trickster figure in the film. He appears to disobey convention and challenge station to help Bertie find himself. Ultimately, it is the extension of friendship and a firm belief in Bertie that allows the King to emerge from his insecurities.

  Claiming The Power of Presence

"The power of presence means we are able to bring all four intelligences forward: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. Some individuals carry such presence that we identify them as charismatic or magnetic personalities." — Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way

For Bertie, the battle for presence was won within himself. Traumatized by loneliness, neglect and bullying as a child, he was supported by Lionel to confront his past.

The leader's journey often requires facing difficult issues and challenges that have interfered with development or entrapped them in "unfinished business."

Presence is earned when leaders are able to remove these obstacles to befriending the self, and allow their gifts and talents to surface above the insecurities.

  Claiming the Power of Communication

Much of The King's Speech focuses on Bertie's struggle to communicate without stammering. The indignities he suffers at the hands of traditional therapists — including stuffing a half-dozen glass balls in his mouth while attempting to read aloud–leaves him frustrated to the point of rage.

Logue's approach is unconventional but effective. It includes singing, swearing, and camaraderie. Bertie begins to trust Logue...and then himself.

This is the leader's challenge. He or she must trust that they can find their own authentic voice. That is the voice that inspires and empowers others, the voice of true authority.

  Claiming the Power of Position

When Edward abdicates, Bertie is confronted with accepting his duty as heir to the throne. Despite fear and misgivings, he recognizes his responsibility to serve his constituency. It is through this decision that he generates a communication breakthrough.

The power of position means responsibility is taken for leadership. It is the willingness to face the challenges of an uncertain future from a place of courage, integrity and action. Certainly, the timing of Bertie's ascendency could not have been less opportune. Europe was in chaos.

Rather than focusing on his faults and deficiencies, Bertie enlists the support he needs to overcome his stammering and deliver a speech that not only declares war on Nazism but also transforms him into King George V1, one of Britain's greatest monarchs.

See The King's Speech. It is the journey of the Transformational Leader. It is Oscar-worthy.


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