Jun 13 2010

Learning Leadership From The Movie 13 Days

I don’t care what your political orientation is, if you want an awesome two hour lesson in leadership watch the movie Thirteen Days.  It’s the story of the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis based on the book by May and Zelikow titled The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Amy and I watched it last night.  I was exhausted from two weeks on the east coast and was having trouble speaking (Amy refers to it as “getting the dregs of Brad.”)  I think I was even out of dregs so I just laid on the coach and watched the movie.  I half watched it a few months ago while catching up on email and I saw it when it first came out so I knew the story.  But when I watched it a few months ago I didn’t give it my undivided attention.  This time I did because I didn’t have the energy to do anything else.

On Thursday and Friday I was in DC and had four significant experiences.  The first was a tour of the CIA which, while limited to very specific physical areas (including the CIA gift shop), included a 75 minute roundtable with the CIA’s CTO and his team about the future.  Later Thursday night I had a very quiet tour of the West Wing.  Friday morning I was on a panel on The Need for Net Neutrality with Brad Burnham (Union Square Ventures) and Santo Politi (Spark Capital) followed by a dynamite meeting at the White House with Phil Weiser and members of the National Economic Council team, Aneesh Chopra (CTO of the US), and Vivek Kundra (CIO of the US).  For two days I was immersed in government leadership.

Yesterday I woke up very late in the morning to Brad Burnham’s post titled Web Services as Governments.  It’s a must read post where he makes several very specific analogies for which web services act like which kinds of government.  He specifically breaks down which government he thinks Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Craigslist look like.  While you may not agree with his mappings, the general construct is incredibly powerful when you think about creating a company that operates on top of a web service (or platform company.)

And then – after sleeping most of the day – I watched Thirteen Days.  As I was immersed in it, I kept thinking about examples from Brad’s post as well as my experience dealing with web services that are powerful governments.  When I think about those examples, Thirteen Days is a movie that every CEO and every member of the management team in these companies (or any company for that matter) should watch.

As a bonus, in both my CIA meeting and the Net Neutrality panel I got to toss out my line that “in 40 years we will not be able to distinguish between biological machines and non-biological humans.  Basically the machines will take over and our goal should be that they are nice to us.”  After waking up this morning feeling much more rested, it was extra fun to see a huge NY Times titled Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday about the Singularity.