the bridge on the river kwai

The movie’s theme is the futility and insanity of war and a story portraying a British and a Japanese Colonel who are two different leaders from different cultures with different leadership styles. Both the men are similar in a lot of ways and they love their commanding stature and have immense pride and dedication to it. I feel that the Japanese colonel (Saito) was a leader who believed in commanding and making people work indifferently.

His rules did not differentiate between the working style and respect given to an officer from a soldier. He was assigned to build a bridge within a deadline and his focus was to complete the bridge with the prisoners of war (British soldiers) who were led by a few officers and a colonel (Nicholson). I am in awe of the never say die leadership style of the British Colonel Nicholson. He was a leader who wanted the best for his men and understood the strength and weakness of his soldiers.

He was a proud egoistic leader who followed his military discipline and code despite of the torturous conditions he and his men were put through. The conflict arose when Saito asked all officers to work as manual laborers whereas under the British law officers did not have to do manual labor work. The British colonel denied to work despite of difficult conditions that Saito got him through . He was adamant that the officers would not work and finally got Siato to agree.

This was also the time that was wasted making it difficult for the bridge to be completed on time. Nicholson was a dominant leader and delegated his role to the best engineers with all trust. He wanted to show the Japanese that they were powerful and more superior in any form and this was where Nicholson went ahead and got his team and expert engineers to build a much superior bridge that the Japanese could not have built in many more years.

The leadership style he showed was incredible but he in the vigor to prove his supremacy over Saito lost the actual sight of the time the bridge was being built which could actually work against the British over a longer period of time. Whereas Saito never lost sight of his mission, but risks failure by letting his concern over lesser issues get in the way. He however was quite weak in his mind as started negotiating and gave up as Nicholson took control of building the bridge. He looked defeated while British did all the work.

Both the leaders wanted to live with their pride, Nicholson by building the best bridge and Siato by getting it completed by the deadline it also explored the concept of “saving ones face” and the close reasoning that Saito employs to save face while still saving his career by getting the bridge built. Overall this case made me relate to different leadership styles that different managers employed in my previous work place. This case helps to give me an insight on how different approaches can be helpful at different times and how one should not get carried over and lose sight of the bigger picture.

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