I recently watched an America war movie inspired by true incidents that happened during the World War II. The script is based on the non-fiction book Unbroken : A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption; and revolves around the American bombing mission against Japan during the April of 1943. The protagonist is Louise Zamperini, an US Olympian and Army Officer who survives a boat crash only to end up in the Japanese prison camp.
The movie focuses on a host of challenges that he faces and brings to surface various leadership lessons –
As a young Italian-American boy in Torrance, California, Louis used to misbehave by stealing, drinking liquor, and smoking. He was often involved in trivial fights. One lucky day, Peter – his brother, saw Louis running to save himself from a bunch of aggressors. Peter noticed the impressive speed with which Louis ran. This inspired him to get Louis to train professionally as a distance runner.
Louis went on to earn the nickname “The Torrance Tornado” as a runner. Louie even finished at the 8th position in the 1936 Olympics and set a record in the final lap for the 5000-meter race. This goes on to show how as a leader, parent, or team mate, it is important to channelise the energy of people around us available in the right direction.
In 1943, Louis was flying as a bombardier for the United States Air Forces. The plane faced some technical difficulties and crashed into the ocean. Louis was left adrift, on a raft, in the sea for 47 days with his 2 more crew members – Russell Allen Philips and Francis McNamara. It was because of Louis’s presence of mind and agility that all three of them survived together for 33 days. He killed the birds that landed on their raft and used the left over pieces as bait to catch fishes. They survived on raw fishes and collected rain water for drinking.
Thus, as a leader it is important to never lose hope and strive to make the best of the resources available, at hand.
Eventually, they were taken as prisoners-of-war to the Japanese camp at Ofuna. The prison guard tormented Louis and others. While most of the prisoners conspired to kill the guard, Louis focused on building his strength. Finally, the war ended and Louis returned home, to his country.
Later, in January 1998, Louis ran with the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano Japan, not far away from the POW camp where he had been held. Louis wanted to meet the prison guard but he refused to see Louise.
“While I suffered a great mistreatment from you, I still forgive you”
Louis wrote in a letter to the Chief. It remains a mystery if the Guard even read the letter. But this shows the strength of Louise’s character. Vengeance and violence are both common but it takes real strength to forgive. Many great leaders have shone because of their forgiving nature and unyielding conviction, in the face of terror.
Louise’ story just goes to highlight the qualities that distinguish great leaders from the rest of the lot. Do share your views on the story and what leadership means to you.