Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quantum of Solace:Women in Leadership - a Woman’s Review

On principle against the overt sexism, machismo, and "escapism" relationships with women, I avoided historical James Bond movies entirely, until in a moment of kindness, I agreed to see Daniel Craig's first Bond movie with my husband. Casino Royale was better than I expected and the women didn't seem to be such classic "play things" I thought I briefly witnessed in the earlier Bond films.

On opening day, I once again found myself in front of Bond on screen in Quantum of Solace and found that I loved the movie. I enjoyed the complicated storyline and while the action scenes were abundant, they didn't last so long that I found my mind wandering too far from the story.

I like Daniel Craig's portrayal of James Bond best in Quantum of Solace because he seemed powerful, intelligent, in control, and sophisticated without appearing smug and conceited. His performance is so convincing because he didn't even seem to be trying to be Bond – he just is Bond.

But the actor that arrested me most in Quantum of Solace was Judi Dench. Dench plays "M," Bond's boss and director of a Secret Intelligence Service branch (MI6). If I understand her role correctly, she answers directly to the Prime Minister, although in this movie, she received orders indirectly from other officials.

Judi Dench's portrayal was cool, quick thinking, and exuded power. Even though her power and orders were usurped at times by a "reengage" Bond, she still managed to keep close reign on an escalating situation where there was little reliable intel.

I want to contrast her role in Quantum of Solace with another film. I recently watched "Ladies in Lavender" (2004) a very "English" film that was charming but not earth-shattering. Dench co-starred with Maggie Smith who was recently in the Harry Potter films and Becoming Jane.

The Ladies in Lavender roles were what one would expect for two older women, delegated to play two aging sisters who were kind-hearted but troubled by the past and the lack of opportunities in their lives. Dench played an adorable character but it was in line with the kinds of roles society expects older women to play - she was weak and childlike.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is M, who I decidedly like. Her commanding strength solicited respect from Bond even when he disagreed with her.

The ability to lead highly talented individuals and to maintain control is a leadership skill many women are still learning to yield. We saw poor executive leadership skills in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006)where the overbearing female boss alienated her work staff in a comedic way.

The level of support and control Dench exhibited goes beyond the level of supervisory skills that come naturally to most women. Author Dr. Lois P. Frankel writes wonderful books about women and leadership. Her titles include: See Jane Lead and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office 101: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers.

I highly recommend these books. I took copies out from the library but am finding that I must buy them so I can highlight the text and read over and over again. Women have often struggled with the balance of maintaining power without being labeled a power-hungry b-----. I think M's performance is a perfect example of how to succeed as a leader.

On a couple occasions in the film, Dench reveals her feminine side, while getting ready for a hot bath, and putting on face cream, all the while leading business phone calls. This imagery reminds us that Dench has a feminine side as well. What I loved about the women in leadership books by Frankel is that she teaches women how to use their feminine stregths to become great leaders rather than deny or suppress them. In effect, instead of "See Jane Lead," her book title could be "See Judi Lead."

Those who watch Quantum of Solace may point out that Bond ignores her orders repeatedly and that his actions led to the truth. Well, just because you are a leader doesn't mean you are always right. The key to great leadership as Henry Ford told us is to have people who are more intelligent than you are working for you. Successful leadership is not dependent on having all the right answers, it is dependent upon knowing how to utilize your resources, analyzing your options, balancing the demands of those in higher or more influential positions than you, and still get the job done. In this regard, M was an impeccable leader.

While acting as M, Dench was confronted with several red herrings. Misdirection led her to temporarily loose her trust in Bond but she quickly rectified that decision and like a good leader, she was quick to recognize her own misjudgments and correct them.

Dench's portrayal is a wonderful example of leadership and it is refreshing and exciting to see a woman play such a clear thinking, powerful role. In See Jane Lead, Dr. Frankel reminds us that assertiveness is a function of leadership and when thinking of assertiveness to "[K]eep in mind that assertiveness means you combine direct and clear communication with unfailing, unconditional positive regard and concern for others." P 108, See Jane Lead.

Quantum of Solace is not only entertaining, it is also a fun, exciting example of female leadership. Thank you Judi Dench for creating a role model.


Allison Frederick believes that Role Modeling is one of the most effective ways to launch a program, improve a product, and personally achieve a higher level of success and goals. www.AllisonFrederick.com

2 comments:

media boy said...

Quantum of Solace is entertaining at least... a lot of high quality visuals, but the movie as a whole could stand to lose six or seven fewer chase scenes

Pam Walter said...

I agree with your assessment - Craig is a perfect Bond (actually has the persona to carry off the role) and Ms. Dench is one of a kind. www.satisfiedsole.com