I have always been wanting to watch Amitabh Bachchan‘s first movie – Saat Hindustani (7 Indians). The story of the movie is how a band of 7 Soldiers wreak havoc in Portuguese occupied Goa and show to the Goans that they are also a part of India and that India had not forgotten their Goan siblings in their fight for freedom.
As I watched the film, I could not notice but see a few things that we can all learn from. I would like to share the same here:
The movie starts off with a large group of Indian satyagrahi’s (freedom fighters) trying to make their way into Goa but are cut off by the Goan army in every one of their attempts. So, the leader decides to send 6 people to carry out a mission and asks for volunteers.
He clearly lays out the argument as to why this is important. He then also clearly indicates that there is a good chance that the people who will volunteer may not come back alive at all. They are not only able to get through but also succeed in their mission.
Lesson 1: Small teams with purpose almost always will win against large teams.
Once he has his volunteers, he gets them onto a rigorous training regimen so they can learn to overpower anyone without having to kill them. As satyagrahis’s, they are supposed to be using non-violent means to fight for freedom. This initial training keeps them in good stead in all their missions.
Lesson 2: Training & team discipline is crucial.
Lesson 3: Clearly defined boundaries help teams execute better.
One very interesting thing that the leader does at the start of the mission is to say that there is will not be a single leader for the mission. Everyday, one of them will get to lead the mission and that everyone else needs to follow the leader and his/her instructions. What this does is it makes everyone feel empowered and understand the burden of leadership and decision-making under duress. This makes the team strong and everyone a leader.
Lesson 4: Everyone in the team is a potential leader and needs to be treated as such.
The six people who volunteer are all from different parts of the country, from different professions, practicing different religions and very different temperaments, strengths and weaknesses. Each one of their strengths comes to play at some point in time.
Lesson 5: Diversity matters.
The seventh Indian is a lady from Goa who meets the rest of the 6 satyagrahi’s once they enter Goa. She knows the topography of the region where they need to execute their missions. She knows the local language. She has the support of the locals, everywhere they go.
Lesson 6: Intimate knowledge of your battle field is critical.
If we don’t have it in our team, we need to bring in someone who has that knowledge. We can either hire them permanently or partner with someone.
The seven Indians are able to take the mighty Portuguese police by surprise through planning and being open to serendipitous opportunities that present themselves. They are able to hoist the Indian flags at 7 police stations manned by the Portuguese police.
Lesson 7: When taking on a big, entrenched player, being nimble and opportunistic works best.
Lesson 8: Symbolism works. This is the reason why national flags & badges still work. Create a symbol that stands for your cause.
At the start the diversity among the 7 Indians leads to stereotyping, chaos and conflict. However, then the team goes through trying times, they are able to come together and become one unit. There is one person in the team who takes initiative to release the tension every time there is a conflict.
Lesson 9: You need someone in the team who can deal with conflict and release tension, which is inevitable in a diverse team.
The movie starts with the same 7 Indians having become disillusioned with the freedom struggle and in some cases, even harbouring anger against each other. Then the story of the past unfolds.
Lesson 10: Team culture can change for the worse anytime if not maintained.
Once we start seeing success, it is quite possible that the team culture can change dramatically. Addition of new people, old people leaving, some people getting promoted or moved to different positions, can all have a telling impact on the culture if care is not taken to continue to maintain the culture that we worked hard to build.
I can only say that when I decided to watch the movie, it was due to the fact that I adore the actor and I always wanted to see the first performance of an actor who will rule the Indian cinema for almost 5 decades. I could already see the spark and the potential in his performance and i loved it. These lessons in leadership was a gift that i had not anticipated.
You can watch the full movie here if you want: