08 June 2011

A Lesson in Leadership - I

'The Bridge on the River Kwai' is my most favourite English language film. This 1957 film was directed by David Lean.

The film is set in the background of the World War II; the war theatre is the Burma-Thailand area. It relates the story of captured British soldiers who are asked by their Japanese captors to build a bridge across the River Kwai. 

In this space, I wish to share a few brilliant excerpts from this multi-Oscar winning film.

The Japanese commander in the jungle camp is Colonel Saito (played by the brilliant Sessue Hayakawa). Here he is speaking to the captured British soldiers:
  • [speaking to British prisoners for the first time] I am Colonel Saito. In the name of His Imperial Majesty, I welcome you. I am the commanding officer of this camp, which is Camp 16 along the great railroad which will soon connect Bangkok with Rangoon. You British prisoners have been chosen to build a bridge across the River Kwai. It will be pleasant work, requiring skill, and officers will work as well as men. The Japanese Army cannot have idle mouthes to feed. If you work hard, you will be treated well, but if you do not work hard, you will be punished! A word to you about escape: there is no barbed wire, no stockade, no watch tower. They are not necessary. We are an island in the jungle. Escape is impossible. You would die. Today you rest. Tomorrow you will begin. Let me remind you of General Yamashita's motto: be happy in your work. Dismissed!
  • Attention, English prisoners! Notice I do not say "English soldiers". From the moment you surrendered, you ceased to be soldiers. You will finish the bridge by the twelfth day of May. You will work under the direction of a Japanese engineer, Lieutenant Mioura. Time is short. All men will work. Your officers will work beside you. This is only just. For it is they who betray you by surrender. Your shame is their dishonor. It is they who told you: 'Better to live like a coolie than die like a hero.' It is they who brought you here, not I. Therefore, they will join you in useful labor. That is all.
Every time, I watch 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' I feel inspired by these words about leadership and what a leader is all about. Simply awesome. My recommendation for you: Go watch it!

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