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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Leadership (M) - 97 minutes

Fabian Dattner was a highly successful businesswoman who took over and expanded the family business before financial pressures saw her close the doors only a few years later.

At that time – the 1980s – she was still in her early 30s.

She has since gone on to reinvent herself as a leadership coach.

The Leadership takes an inside look at a controversial and expensive leadership program among women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine), operating under the Homeward Bound umbrella.

The latter is, again, the brainchild of Dattner.

Specifically, the documentary concentrates on the first trip 76 highly intelligent, handpicked women took to Antarctica in 2016, facilitated primarily by Dattner, by then in her early 60s.

They were the initial crop of a planned cohort of 1,000 to make the three-week journey over 10 years.

Let’s just say the picture painted of Dattner, her methodology and the outcome are less than favourable, notwithstanding her laudable goals.

She constantly talks up her credentials, but is nowhere near self-aware enough.

Women are severely underrepresented in top scientific jobs, just like they are in the boardroom.

A number of those on the course had faced sexual harassment and discrimination before signing up.

But before this is over, members of the group will continue to be tested and the result is ugly.

Watching this, it appears any positives are drastically outweighed by the negatives.

These women are looking for leadership cues they can use to cement their careers.

Instead, they are often fed platitudes.

One puts it well when she talks of a “touchy feely” approach, rather than a program that is tactical and practical.

Worse is to follow.

The documentary presents the back stories of a number of those who take part in the exercise, as well as showcasing a smidgeon of what they are taught.

But by far the most impressive part of the trip is the awe-inspiring terrain that is Antarctica and its fauna.

To say that is spectacular, doesn’t do it justice.

The women get there via ship from Argentina. Accompanying them is a male expedition leader and a male crew.

Before the kicker ending, I found the doco meandered far too much and became bogged down as a result.

Don’t get me wrong, the participants’ back stories are important, but to set up the fall I wanted to see more of what was actually said by Dattner and her co-presenters during the facilitation sessions, not just some of the women’s reactions to it.

Mind you, what I did see I considered lightweight.

To me, it appeared Dattner, in particular, was “winging it” and not expecting to receive the backlash she did. She was altogether too belligerent and defensive.

She appeared ill-prepared and hoped her life experience would carry the day, which it was never going to with a group that had the intellectual rigour of this lot.

I do give her plaudits, though, for allowing herself to be presented on camera the way she is.

Written and directed by Ili Baré, as a whole The Leadership should have been repackaged and tightened to make it significantly more compelling than it was.

Scenically, it had so much going for it, but the end result of all that was said and done was far from ideal.

And, I am not just talking about the outcome for the women participating in the first Homeward Bound expedition to Antarctica, but the documentary itself.

Rated M, it scores a 6 out of 10.


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