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The Oscars and the Art of Business Leadership

“What do the Oscars have to do with business leadership?”, you may be asking. There are five things I believe Oscar nominees and winners demonstrate that land them the preeminent recognition for their artistic achievements.

1. Vision

Having a clear vision is almost a cliché attribute of a leader. However without it, it’s hard to give an outstanding, authentic performance as an actor.  In the absence of ‘where am I going with this character?’, the actor would likely amble around, missing opportunities to clearly define what defines him or her. How would they know how to respond in certain situations?

When an actor is able to do this, we find ourselves watching a scene unfold that evokes powerful emotions within us riveting us to the screen and the characters.

A lack of vision would make directing a film equally a challenge. The director must communicate the vision for the overall project so that the players can find themselves and clarify their roles in the film.  The players are then able to bring their best into the role and forge a path toward the vision that is theirs uniquely to make.

This ability to articulate a clear vision advances any kind of project, whether it’s being played out in Hollywood, Boise or Philadelphia.

2. Intention
I researched the dictionary for the definition of ‘intention’ because although I know it when I feel it, I wasn’t sure how to describe it.

Here’s part of what I found:
An act or instance of determining mentally upon some action; purpose or attitude.

The definition that was most revealing however, was that of the word as used in a medical context: “a manner or process of healing (as in the healing of a lesion or fracture).

This brought a whole new perspective to that which occurs in acting, directing, filming and leading.  Imagine that the intention one brings reflects the healing and fusing of two (or more) disparate entities, goals, purposes, personae, people.

In this way, it reflects a sort of will to bring together that which might not have happened that leaves the new ‘whole’ greater than the sum of its parts.

When you’re leading, isn’t that exactly what you’re doing?

3. Going all out
You may have heard the phrase, “Leave it all on the floor”. Oscar nominees put everything they have into their

performance.  They completely ‘spend’ themselves.  I’ve heard actors say they actually abandon their own personality and dive as deeply as they can into their portrayal character.

That kind of energy, passion and commitment serves a leader as well.  Think about people who have deeply inspired you.  They didn’t give up  their own personality, but they probably did give what they were at work on, everything they had.

It was this demonstration of going for the gusto, that probably had you step up and excel in your own performance.

4. Attention to detail
Think about the mountain of details that must be involved in films as visually complex as Inception and Avatar.

Even the characters in Inception were focused on keeping every detail of the dream levels as realistic as possible.

When you’re a leader, you don’t need to attend to all of the details, but you must keenly care about them and communicate that care to the people whose job it is to attend to them.

5. Challenging the bounds of reality and ‘what’s possible’
It’s a delicate trick to balance reality and possibility.  Films need to have some semblance to reality or else they won’t be understood.

However, if all they reflect is reality and don’t challenge the edges, we’ll be bored watching them.

Successful screen writing requires some sort of break with the predictable; some dichotomy or unexpected crisis is needed to keep the plot interesting. Great actors are able to take ordinary people (even in bit roles) and make memorable characters,even heroes out of them.

Exemplary leaders are able to stand in the reality of where things are now, both the circumstances and the people. They are equally able to articulate what’s possible and galvanize people around getting there. They don’t succumb to ‘it’s never been done before’.  They’re actually challenged by that and rise to the occasion. As they rise and light the path ahead, they elevate us all.

Imagine what it would take for you to bring the traits of an Academy Award winner into ‘playing’ out your leadership role, whether at work, at home or in your community.

How might you behave differently?  What would you and those around you be able to accomplish? Think about that the next time you step onto your ‘stage’.