The VP of finance at a large European bank told me that, once, the night before a very important meeting, he happened to watch the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men. The movie, which won an Oscar and stars Henry Fonda, is about a jury that must determine a defendant guilty or innocent based on reasonable doubt. It is a great noir thriller that touches on the power of persuasion, influence, and consensus building, and the finance executive mentioned that these lessons were fresh in his mind when dealing with his boss and colleagues that next day. It was clearer to him how to get people buy-in to the changes he wanted to implement in the company. Upon hearing this, I immediately went back to watch the movie and have been including it in my classes ever since to illustrate effective influence.
In fact, the lessons remain even more relevant today. The main challenge CEOs face nowadays is gaining trust, credibility, and respect from his/her peers. The script of 12 Angry Men is a masterpiece on social influence and understanding influence without power.
Let’s divide the movie into three parts and focus on the strategies that Henry Fonda’s character (the architect) plays in each. Part 1 teaches lessons on how to be influential unfreezing and mobilizing the group. Part 2 focuses on the lessons on how to change the group and create movement. Finally, Part 3 centers on lessons regarding freezing the change, consolidating the created momentum.