Leadership: Lessons from the Arts

Paul Pringle on the leadership lessons to be found in a round-table of six Hollywood film directors.

Struggling with the first week back?  I am.  Coming off any sort of holiday is never easy.  No matter how much we might love our work, holidays are made to be difficult to leave.  If you were a little too eager to get back to work, perhaps you actually need another holiday.  Many of my high achieving 'resilience' clients struggle with resting and recreating, yet often comment, once they've had a decent break: "I wish I had taken leave sooner, and for longer".  

Here's a little career and leadership inspiration, while you have time for it:  

Watch THR's Full, Uncensored Director Roundtable With Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott and More - Director Oscar Roundtable
The year's most notable directors join for The Hollywood Reporter's Writer Oscar Roundtable. The directors include Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight), Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), Ridley Scott (The Martian), Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs) and David O. Russell (Joy).

The video is an hour long, and perhaps you don't have an hour.  So watch just a little.  You can't help but be interested and inspired by hearing from some of the most successful captains of film on why and how they do the work they do.

You may not like film, or ever find two hours free to watch one, or you might be cynical about Hollywood motives.  However there is no denying the leadership effort in making large budget feature films.  Each film is a huge feat achieved by contributions from vast disciplines and teams of business and artistic professionals: Finance, marketing, art and costume departments, technical production and design, musicians, cinematographers, actors, writers and directors.  There are perhaps more lessons to be learned from senior leaders in film, than from any other industry.  It's the most multi-disciplinary of the arts and it's perhaps the most seen, criticised and talked about art, globally.  We look to film to inspire us, allow us to escape, to live vicariously, and move us emotionally - to laugh, cry, hope and feel human.  As an arts business, it's certainly the most profitable when done well, and it provides jobs for thousands of people worldwide.  

Why and how is this video worthwhile?  It's informative and it's inspirational.  It shows six very different personalities, ages and stages, who have all 'made it' doing the same job, in very different ways.  It shows their strength of character and passion (you can call this ego, either way, it's a potency to do courageous things, and a required attribute of a great leader).  It shows their willingness to learn from others and mistakes, to master a craft, and build a collaborative team, rather than simply collect extrinsic rewards (of which they have received oodles, anyway).  And it shows their humility (what they're afraid of, what they have learned, and what they regret), even if some appear to have more than others.  

And: From a courage perspective, Directing is arguably the most difficult job in a film, certainly the most 'responsible' and 'transparent'.  Put it this way: Would you take ownership for visualising, producing and artistically directing a huge project for two years of your life, to be then judged by a global audience who each pay $15 (or don't)?  Each of these Directors does this, film after film. Their leadership passion, courage and perseverance is almost beyond comprehension.

The Roundtable is often assimilated from the current awards season and, of course, it would have been ideal to see a gender balance (females are severely under-represented in Directing generally), or a few Directors from countries other than the USA, UK and Mexico.  But, so be it.  For a wider and balanced view of film gurus discussing their craft, see the other Roundtables on the Hollywood Reporter website.

Happy New Year and may your year be your most inspired yet.

PS. My pick of 2015? The Revenant.  Perhaps, personally, because it is the greatest Outward Bound adventure ever.  But, critically, because it breaks cultural, acting, location and cinematography boundaries. A must see.