I recently watched this classic movie with my 10-year old daughter. I wanted her to know that we all feel trapped at times, wondering if this is as good as it gets (to quote another movie), and that the way out is to become a better person.
For most of us, each day is very much like the previous one. We wake up in the same home, with the same people, and go to the same job to do the same thing. It’s easy to be dissatisfied with aspects of our home and workplace. If we focus on that, we end up feeling like Phil at the beginning of Groundhog Day.
In the movie, Phil spends the first few weeks of his time warp in panic. Then in anger. Then in selfishness. Then in depression. He eventually gives up and resigns himself to an eternal life in Punxsutawney. Only then does he start to engage in random acts of kindness and his emotions are stirred. He continues to be kind, starts learning new things, and happiness grows. He becomes the most popular man in town, falls in love with a woman who loves him back and then, just like that, the curse is broken.
The way out of a poor corporate culture is to treat each (nearly-identical) day as an opportunity to make a small change and see if it makes your day brighter. If it does, keep doing it and make another small change. Do this every day, with patience and persistence, and you can change the culture.
That’s ethical leadership.