The Setting

During World War I, a horse finishes his run entangled in the barbed wire between two trenches. A young soldier tries to save the horse, but has to get past the suspicion of his enemies and overcome numerous difficulties. The situation becomes hostile, but to his surprise, he finds someone waiting for him...

Teaching Perspective

This scene is taken from the film “War horse” – It is particularly efficient in introducing reasons for resolving a conflict, teamwork or collaboration.

The context in which it takes place is symbolic of difficult times: the war.

It could be a battle between institutions, in companies, in the family or simply between two opposing factions (groups).

If we imagine a company in which two departments continuously fight over the budget or over policies, freeing the horse may represent the common “aim”, which a leader entrusts to both sides in order to bring the two together and dissolve the conflict.

In the scene, the two armies are barricaded in their respective trenches. In the midst of the explosions and the gunshots, a soldier finds the “courage” to raise the white flag, to risk his life and to carry out the rescue attempt.

The opening part is bloody with the beast thrashing around in the barbed wire; the ending is a happy one with the two enemy soldiers becoming friends, to the admiration of their companions, thanks to a common objective.

The moment in which the two characters realize the presence of the other is emotional, and both of them, moved by a deep understanding, start to work out the common task. One guides, the other follows. On one side the motivation, on the other the skill.

The different starting points we can find:

Courage of the leader who defeats the boss’ order (when the soldier gets outof the trench despite the orders he received)

The force of a common objective which can make them overcome the differences

The end to conflict thanks to a shared purpose


Necessary instruments and resources (without the wire cutters the situation would have been even more complicated)

Skills that transform into leadership (the soldier suggests which end of the barbed wire to cut, and the other says: say no more, I’m right behind you)

The reoccurrence of the conflict if the expectations are not settled on in advance

Keeping to promises (after the toss of the coin)

Empathy and understanding (the final salute between the two friends)

This clip gives the world of training a real experience, from which it’s possible to learn the principles of leadership, going from the “definition” of an objective to the “what” and “when”.

My advice to the trainer or manager who wants to show it to his/her audience, is to introduce it with a preamble. There are some good and bad leadership examples in the clip. After watching it, ask them to point out everything than could be useful to resolve a conflict, at first by themself and then with a group brainstorming (max. 3 or 5 individuals).

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Buy the film

Buy the recommended book

"War Horse" A film directed by Steven Spielberg with Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson. USA/UK, 2011

"The Third Side" by William Ury

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