Professional Development

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Leadership at the Movies - Part 1

Friday, 25 April 2014 05:13

At the 2014 NAA Annual Convention, Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, presented entertaining, inspiring, and humorous movie clips that revealed the essential characteristics of leadership. Here is the first part of the top ten guide created from his presentation. These leadership principles can earn you "two thumbs up" from your colleagues and funders as well as the youth and families you serve.


The leader is easy to please, but difficult to satisfy. The need for leadership is obvious when things are not going well, but leadership also is needed when the situation is good…because the leader realizes that any situation can always be better. The search for improvement never stops.

The 1950s in the United States, while far from perfect, became known as “happy days” (hence the name of the popular TV show with Richie and The Fonz) after America survived the Great Depression and won World War II. Yet, good was not good enough for President Kennedy, who challenged America to become even better – practically, educationally, economically and symbolically – by setting the goal of landing an American on the moon by the end of the decade.

President Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice University in 1962 remains inspirational to this day.

The successful leader thinks first about the success of the organization, not their personal success. The successful leader also thinks first of colleagues and the people being served instead of the leader’s own personal interests or well-being.

These are the attributes of a “Level 5” Leader described by Dr. Jim Collins in, “Good to Great” and exemplified in the movie, “Gladiator.”  Watch how Maximum reacts when Caesar ponders the Roman Empire’s latest conquests and then invites Maximus to become the Empire’s next supreme leader.

You can discover your calling in life when you discover what you can’t, not do. Someone who is called to music cannot stop writing songs, singing or playing a musical instrument. Here’s another way to discover your calling. When you see a story on the news about an issue of the day, what makes you joyful? What makes you angry? What makes you cry? You have those emotional reactions only about the issues you deeply care about.

Your specific calling is found where one of those passions meets one of the world’s great needs. Once you discover your calling, you then can shape vision for yourself and your organization. Watch how Homer Hickam finds his calling and his vision – after returning from football practice compared with when he first sees Sputnik – in “October Sky.”

The most successful college basketball coach of all time, John Wooden, when asked to describe the main reasons for his success, described how the team with the best players usually wins the game. Therefore, a leader is rigorous and highly intentional when inviting others to join the team.

According to Northwestern University and Forbes Magazine, all interview questions can be consolidated into three categories:

  1. Do you have the skills for this job, or do you have the intelligence, aptitude and drive to learn the skills for this job?
  2. Do you have specific passion for our organization, or are we simply your next job and paycheck?
  3. How do you fit within the team chemistry of our organization?

 Hiring, when done well, is not easy. Terminating employment, while not easy, needs to be done well. In “Miracle,” watch how U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks cuts Ralph from the team.

One of the most memorable moments in American sports history occurred in the 1976 World Series when Boston catcher Carlton Fisk hit a dramatic “walk off” home run to win the game for the Red Sox and send the series to a winner-take-all Game 7 against the Cincinnati Reds. Even folks who are not big sports fans can feel the excitement as Fisk swings, watches the ball he has hit sail toward the left field wall, and then waves his arms in a desperate attempt to keep the ball in fair territory.

Those same arms go straight up in jubilation, shared by the standing-room-only home crowd at Fenway Park, as the ball reaches the outfield seats and Fisk starts circling the bases to score the dramatic winning run. As leaders, we can be tempted to always be swinging for the big home run. We can be tempted to look for the one big project, the one big grant, the one big development that will change our organization forever. But as Dr. Jim Collins explains in, “Great by Choice,” home runs are nice, and we should take them when we get them. However, most successful organizations thrive due to steady, incremental progress. A strategy is devised, an operations plan is written, and the organization achieves success one step at a time. This effective leadership strategy also is evident in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. While Apple now provides us with iPhones and iPads connected in “the cloud,” this technological wizardry resulted from steady incremental progress from one device to the next. Circuit boards made in a computer hobby club were followed by the Mac, followed by the iPod, followed by the iPhone, and then the iPad. Only then did the need for a “cloud” become apparent.

If steady, step-by-step progress worked for Steve Jobs, the same leadership strategy can work for you.

Look for Leadership at the Movies - Part 2 for more leadership principles.

Bill Stanczykiewicz is President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter at: @_billstan. Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon/

#1 Stacia 2014-12-12 20:58
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