I love the Oscars. Even if it is, as Billy Crystal said last night, “an evening of millionaires giving golden statues to other millionaires,” I love the Oscars. But I didn’t think I’d find leadership lessons in the over-three-hour show…but I did.
The first lesson that screamed loudly to me, even in it’s quiet, was the power of silence. Who would think that the award for Best Actor would be given to someone who, in a one-hour and forty-minute movie, speaks only a few words? And yet Jean Dujardin walked away with a golden statue because of his deafening performance and the impact he had while nearly saying NOTHING. Likewise, the Best Picture award went to The Artist. Again, one hour and forty minutes with nearly no dialogue, nearly no sound other than the accompanying music – with only a few subtitles now and then to help us follow the story line…and yet follow it we did. Because the actors conveyed so much without words. We knew their emotions. We knew their wants and needs. We knew their despair and elation. We were with them.
What does this have to do with leadership? I watched the Oscars, as I always do, and I marveled at the power of silence. I was reminded (and amazed) at how much we reveal with everything other than our actual words. We can clearly share our intentions, our displeasure, our confusion, and our joy without saying a word…and perhaps sometimes we do so without even knowing it. The actors in The Artist were intentionally revealing their inner emotions with us, their audience. As leaders, are we aware of what we may be sharing with others unintentionally? There is so much we can, and do, disclose. Our goal is to do so thoughtfully and intentionally.
The second leadership lesson I learned from the Oscar ceremony was brought home by Meryl Streep’s grace and joy at winning the award for Best Actress. Meryl Streep has been nominated seventeen times for an Oscar (including last night) – more than anyone else. She has won three times (including last night). And her acceptance speech was a mixture of surprise, joy, and humility. As she began her speech she shared her first thoughts as her name was read out. “The world is watching and thinking, ‘oh no, not her,’” she offered. “Not her again!” And then she smiled as if to say, “oh well, yes it’s me.” I saw in that moment a sense of humanity and humility – and joy. Winning an Oscar, even if you think everyone else thinks you’ve been in the pool too many times, must be an amazing thing, and Meryl Streep seemed to accept her version of what she thought the public thought…and then enjoyed her moment anyway. This reminds me that sometimes, even as leaders, even as attentive as we need to be to the emotions and needs of others around us, we need to remember that “what other people think of us is none of our business.” We need to do what we know is right, and sometimes even simply enjoy the moment we’re in, and move on.
There is so much to learn, even from the Oscars – besides just remembering how amazingly funny Billy Crystal can be, especially when he combines all the Best Picture nominees into one song…