The other week I went to see “Midnight in Paris”, which, by the way, I wholeheartedly recommend. It is laugh-out-loud funny whether you love Woody Allen (I am a die-hard fan) or simply appreciate great comedy.

That being said, this movie also offers Thoughtful Leadership lessons that remind us to live and lead with purpose and focus. Here’s what I learned from “Midnight in Paris”:

  • Don’t try to make things fit that simply don’t – There are people we are “meant” to be with, with whom we fit, and there are people with whom we simply can’t see eye-to-eye. It’s important to be aware of this. Notice when you’re trying to make someone, or something, fit that simply doesn’t, and address it. If it can’t fit, move on. Either don’t stay in the jobs, with the people, on the teams, with the projects, and in the situations that don’t fit for you, or find the way to acknowledge the lack of fit and to do your best to make the best of what’s there.
  • There’s a time to dream and a time for reality – And only you can truly tell the difference. It’s important to have dreams, and even illusions, and it’s also important to know when those dreams are getting in our way of being more successful and/or happy. It’s important to realize when our dreams are fueling us to move towards what we want to do and who we want to be, and when they’re standing in the way of greater success. If your dreams are holding you back instead of propelling you forward, it’s time to change. Find a way to truly live your dream, and if you can’t, translate the essence of your dream – what you really want – into your daily life and leadership. Develop a vision and do what it takes to move yourself, your team, and your organization in that direction.
  • Don’t settle for less than you deserveIn life, in work, in teams, in organizations we often settle for less than we want and we deserve. We tolerate unacceptable behavior, allow others to have no accountability, suffer others’ lack of planning and live the results in chaos and even more stressful deadlines. Now is the time to put an end to that. We simply don’t have to accept less than we deserve anymore. A client recently complained that he couldn’t hold his team members accountable because he couldn’t give them direct feedback – he was afraid of coming down on them too harshly. I corrected him that he could give direct feedback, in fact he had to. He simply had to find the way to deliver it effectively. If you’re tolerating unacceptable behavior, stop. Determine what behavior is acceptable, set the level you need yourself and others to live up to, and then find the ways to give the feedback and make the changes that need to happen.
  • Live for your dreams – Again, there’s a time to dream and a time to let them go…and if it’s time for you to dream, live for your dreams. If you have a vision of the life you’ll lead, the future for your organization, the level at which you and your team will play – go for it. Too often we give up on our dreams when they are what we truly want. Contrary to the point above, if your dreams aren’t getting in the way of reality and your success, stick to them. If they really matter to you, go for them. The only way we’ll know if we’ll be able to achieve our desires is if we steadfastly chase them and don’t give up.
  • What we’ve got is better than we think – Too often we look for somewhere else, or something else, or someone else to be better, and we don’t recognize all we have right in front of ourselves. We keep thinking that some other time, or some other place, or some other way will give us all we want, and we don’t realize the gifts, talents, and knowledge right before our eyes. We simply have to stop and look more closely at the life we’re currently living and the work we’re currently doing and see what’s right. And if nothing is right, look even closer for what’s good about it. Instead of downplaying ourselves, looking for faults in others, and imagining it will all be better “when…,” let’s look to today and do what we can with what we have.

Who knew Woody Allen had so many life and leadership lessons to offer? Go see the movie – it’s fun – and tell us what you think and what you learned.
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