WORTH: A twin towers leadership story

I often talk about how important it is for health business leaders to build relationships and trust with employees, clients and referrers. There are examples everywhere, not only in leadership literature but also all around us on social media platforms, podcasts, blogs and in popular culture. As the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks approached, I found myself drawn to a movie on Netflix called Worth (2020). I did not know anything about the storyline – which in itself is fascinating. I was therefore, unprepared for the plot development as I watched the main character transform from being single minded in pursuit of a goal, to someone that had the courage to change direction to achieve it.

Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, Feinberg nominates himself to oversee the compensation fund for the families of victims. He has two years to sign up 80% of the approximately 7000 victims to the scheme. As a service to his country, Feinberg offers to undertake the role pro-bono.

With the dilemma of determining what a life is worth, Feinberg comes up with a financial solution that reduces the complexities of this ethical question to a single amount for every victim. The formula is considered unfair and callous by the victims’ families and the scheme does not get their support. There are several parallel stories of people who lost loved ones in the attacks, that highlights the unfairness of the compensation system. It becomes clear that most victims really want to tell someone about their suffering and the injustice that they have experienced.

Feinberg does not seem to be able to break through the impasse and as the months go on is ready to give when up. He is approached by a rival who encourages Feinberg to have courage and perservere. This encounter provides Feinberg with the impetus to review and change his approach towards the victims. He begins to meet them and listens to the injustice that they are feeling and how the event has impacted their lives. Trust builds. The scheme gradually becomes modified as he and his team recognise that there can be “no one size fits all” and he works with victims to bend the rules so that they are looked after..

As Feinberg meets the families and shows genuine care for the families of the victims, he and his team create a movement and meaningful change, achieving an outcome for everyone, including the Nation.

At the end of the movie, I thought about my own leadership journey and how the change of approach to being more empathetic has transformed my business and the fulfilment I feel as a result. I wonder if you have ever experienced this feeling?

Dianna Howell CMgr MIML MAPA

September 2021

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