Leadership and the Movies

We have all experienced good, great, poor and terrible leadership in our lives. In my employment experience, I have been a leader – and I have my moments of being good, great, poor and terrible.

I believe, as many do, that leadership is something that can be learned, and if that is true, then there is hope for those of us who hold leadership roles but who do not always feel they have done the job justice from time to time.

Leaders are portrayed in movies as the loner, usually unreasonably young and good looking, someone who sees “the truth” and have to fight to have others see truth as well. Typically our hero ends up having some special skill or talent that they use to ‘wow’ or defeat those resisting the change, and by the end of the movie they are able to save the day.

We also all know that if we acted like our movie heroes, petulant and dramatic, we would be walked from the board room and right out the front door with little or no delay!

But what can we learn from our movie heroes that apply to business?

  • They see something others don’t: an opportunity, a personality trait, or a weakness
  • They are not willing to go along: they are persistent and they are not affected by group-think or peer pressure
  • They want to act: they know when to stop talking and when to start acting
  • They have a skill: these people have something to offer the that is credible
  • They take risks: which often involves some form of free-fall or engagement with ugly robot-monsters from another planet, but they have the confidence in their beliefs to take that risk

Though we are talking about our movie hero-leader, if we can imagine these traits playing out in a more mundane setting without the histrionics that attend a Hollywood production, we can start to see how we can ‘practice’ (develop) some of the skills necessary for leadership.

Imagine being part of a workgroup trying to fix a problem in inventory control. With your experience in the area you have an idea about the problem, and upon raising it with the group, find that it is dismissed out of hand. Your experience and knowledge tell you that it is a real issue…you can clam up and go along with the group’s other ideas or you can take the risk and speak up and defend your concern as something real and important.

If you press your issue, is that leadership? Well, it’s close! Add a little bit of office politics to the mix and you will have your hands full as you try to sway a crowd to your way of thinking!

The above example is one small step to building the confidence needed to stand in front of a small group and say “let’s go this way”. With enough practice, you will eventually be able to stand in front of a large crowd and yell “CHARGE!”

Inspired by Barbara Bowes’ post on leadership in her February 2012 post: (http://legacybowes.com/latest-blog-posts/entry/taking-the-lead-qualities-for-successful-leaders.html).

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