Leadership lessons from Ranbir Kapoor’s movies

Barfi! Ranbir KapoorRanbir Kapoor has the genes for acting with the talent and looks to match! Son of two of the most loved actors of Indian cinema – Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, grandson of the legendary Raj Kapoor, Ranbir started his acting career at the age of 25 in 2007. Over the next seven years, he has already built a diverse and impressive portfolio of work. In a short period of time, he has won Filmfare awards for best debut, and the Best Actor award twice, having been nominated almost every year. Starting out as the quintessential romantic hero matching his real life image, he has ventured into more experimental, bold and somewhat unconventional roles recently. He is brilliant as the sometimes charming, often effusive, always dashing but un-selfconscious young person trying to find himself.

But seriously, are there any leadership lessons to be learnt from his acting? I think there are a few important ones, specially in relating to and understanding Gen Y, and learning in a “child is the father of man” sort of way.

Here are five of my favorites with the underlying leadership message:

#1 Besharam – will you hire that attitude?

Ranbir performs the “diamond in the rough” person with elan. His character is supremely skilled, does his job (car mechanic and thief) to perfection; but having been orphaned and abandoned, he is reckless, unstoppable, incorrigible, in your face and literally, shameless. As Hindi movies have it often, under the exterior of toughness lies the heart of gold.

Leadership lesson: Will you hire and nurture the seemingly incorrigible person, focusing on their pure talent and what’s inside?

#2 YJHD (Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani) – searching for anchors and roots

This is one of Ranbir’s most commercially successful movies. He plays the classic Gen Y – the person who doesn’t want to settle down. He is street smart, telegenic and travels the world as part of his job. And yet, it is not clear is he moving towards what he likes or is he running away from something. Towards the end of the movie, he settles for stability as he finds his roots, symbolized by his love interest.

Leadership lesson: Young people have their own journey. Sometimes towards the exciting, attractive and unexplored and sometimes towards the familiar and reassuring.

#3 Wake up Sid – coming of age and self-discovery

Another movie of youngster angst, Ranbir plays Sid, a character strangely uninterested and dispassionate towards everything around him. He seems to have no sense of responsibility, or goals and is reluctant to make commitments. Until he is shaken out of stupor when he falls in love.

#4 Barfi – Overcoming adversity

One of his most powerful, touching and endearing roles, Ranbir plays a deaf-mute young man in picturesque Darjeeling. He is full of life – a charming, street-smart prankster who romances an autistic girl (Priyanka Chopra) and the beautiful Ileana D’Cruz.

#5 Rockstar – creative person dealing with his inner demons

This movie was a turning point in Ranbir’s career as it won critical acclaim and established him as an actor destined for greatness. His character shows evolution and transformation from a crass village youth into a music star with enormous following. He remains child-like, discomforted and ill-at-ease with his fan following and media attention. The conflicts between the passion to express himself creatively through music, sustaining an all-consuming but difficult love and the media attention that he detests eventually consumes his life.

Leadership lesson: Enormous creative gifts come with their own challenges. 

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Sharad Verma is currently HR Head (CHRO) for Sears Holdings India.

Sharad’s blog on leadership, talent and innovation is available at www.iSharad.com. Sharad has been named one of the Top 20 Social Media HR Influencers by SHRM, featured as one of the Best HR Heads in India and his column featured in the top 5 most read career advice on Star career website.

A graduate of the prestigious XLRI, Sharad has more than two decades of HR experience. He has previously been Global Head – Human Resources for Polaris Consulting & Services Ltd, Director, Human Resources for SunGard Global Technology, Head of Human Resources for Berkadia (subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway), Monster.com, and The Bank of New York Mellon India.

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