While watching the World War II classic movie Tora, Tora, Tora about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I noticed another “classic” taking place as well, that of pathetic leadership!

There is a scene where a General is visiting a strategic enemy detection station on Oahu. He gives “instruction” to his subordinate commander to take certain action, and in response to the General’s ill-advised “direction”, the commander reports the issues and concerns that impact their situation.

The General then provides typical “leadership direction” by stating to his commander “take it easy, you’ll figure it out!”  The commander says, tongue-in-cheek, “yeah, I’ll figure it out.” You can vividly see the engagement and morale impact of this dialogue.

Now I’m a proponent of empowerment, but this is not how it should be done!

Fast forward…the same commander then gives “direction” to two soldiers at the location by saying “well don’t just stand there, you guys know how to operate this thing”.

Their response is that “we know the theory sir”, to which their “boss” responds, “well let’s put the theory into practice.”  “You two stay put and keep watching that screen.”

Then comes this classic question…“excuse me sir, but what are we watching for?”

Regrettably, the absurdity of unclear and uncaring communication evident throughout this scene occurs on a daily basis in many workplaces.

Now watch the rest of this stunning dialogue in reply to the soldier’s inquiry:

Colonel: “Anything unusual coming from the sea.”

Soldiers: “Sir, if we do spot something, what do we do?”

Colonel: “Report it to headquarters.”

Soldiers: “How, Sir? We haven’t got a telephone.”

Colonel: “There’s a gas station a mile down the road, they must have a phone.”

I won’t even start to discuss ensuring that your team has the right tools and resources to do their job!

Sadly, we all know how Pearl Harbor turned out, and although I suspect much of this movie dialogue was fictional, it leads me to think that with more caring leadership, the tragic results of that Sunday could have somehow been altered.