A leadership lesson

(This was my Fifth speech at Toastmasters)

Have you ever seen the movie twelve angry men? It starred Henry Fonda in 1957 and, nowadays, it’s used in some Business Schools as example of how to manage a meeting and how to negotiate with and be able to convince to your audience.

The film tells the story of a jury made up by 12 men. The whole movie action takes place in the same room. They have to deliberate about if a Puertorican  lower class boy is guilty or not guilty of murder. Their verdict must be  by unanimously. If the boy is declared guilty, a death sentence would be mandatory.

Right at the beginning, they take a preliminary vote. Eleven people vote guilty and only Henry Fonda votes not guilty. The rest of the jury members asked  him: do you really think he is innocent?  He answers: I don’t know, I just want to talk, there were eleven votes for guilty, it’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first. Suppose we are wrong!

Fonda wants to take at least an hour to deliberate. He looks to the eyes of a member of the jury, who was hurried because he has tickets for the baseball match of the New York Yankies, and he tells him: the ball game doesn’t start until 8 oclock.

He is assertive and, when someone tries to interrupt the meeting with something different from the case, he energetically says that’s not why we are sitting here. He argues that he has a reasonable doubt and he uses it to analyze the motive, the facts and the scene of the crime.

After several minutes of discussion, like a good leader, Fonda takes risks, and he proposes another vote by secret written ballot. He’ll abstain. Then, another man votes not guilty. He uses eye contact to appreciate when he is supported by someone in the room.

Fonda never interrupts when someone is talking. He is always listening actively. His body language is appropiate and helpful to communicate properly with his audience. He is more than a gentleman, his gestures are effective and he conveys confidence and poise.

He is able to get people thinking and reflect by asking questions. Fonda seeks support and feedback is welcomed by him. Thanks to him they talk about the facts, then, some people start to have a reasonable doubt about the verdict and some of them change their vote to not guilty.

A member of the jury discovers that the main witness was lying. Immediately, Henry Fonda asks for a diagram of the apartment to prove that the boy is not guilty. Another man argues that the accused isn’t tall enough and it would be very awkward to stab downwards into the chest of someone with his height.

And finally, another member of the jury realizes that another main witness needs glasses but because she is vain, she doesn’t wear them. She couldn’t recognize the boy. Taking advantage of the situation, Fonda proposes another new vote and the whole jury declare that the accused boy is not guilty.

They were very close to send an innocent boy off to die without thinking or reflecting about it. Thanks to an intelligent person and a good leader like Henry Fonda, finally, it doesn’t happen.

A good leader is not one who shouts more or who treats his employees worse. A good leader surrounds himself always with a good team, listens actively, takes risks, thinks, reflects and, like Henry Fonda, asks everyone to get the best information and with it, he or she will be able to take the best decision.

David Torija


Acerca de David Torija

Economist and MBA. Business Development Manager, Advisor and Business Strategist. Passionate about Management, Finance, Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Writing and Public Speaking. Cross Cultural and Global Minded. Hard Worker. Entrepreneur. Optimistic, Enthusiastic: Always look on the bright side of life.
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