While teaching leadership to my sailors, I sometimes used movie clips to make a specific point. One of the best was the superb 1949 movie “Twelve O’clock High,” starring Gregory Peck. The story starts with a character named Colonel Keith Davenport, the group commander of the 918th Bomb Group. The unit is flying daylight bombing runs over Germany and suffering terrible losses. Davenport cares for his command intensely. He agonizes for his men. He works tirelessly. He loves his men, and they love him.
But his love is killing them.
Higher command’s operations officer, Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck’s character), decides it’s time to relieve Davenport, and he is asked to take the job. An aptly named, notorious hard-ass, Savage shows up and immediately focuses on discipline. He reminds his soldiers that they are in the Army. He sets expectations and holds them accountable. Initially, they hate him. They fight him. They resist. But soon, their combat effectiveness improves, and their loss rate declines. Gradually, they realize Savage was right, and they come to respect their new commanding officer.