How did Western movies influence my leadership style?
When I was growing up I watched countless John Ford’s genre of Western movies. The images of the American West beautifully cinematographed became a bucket list item to visit Utah’s majestic Monument Valley, which I have now achieved. Although John Ford was pigeonholed as the Western movie director, and much of his Westerns are not politically correct now, the power and beauty of his cinematography remains with me forever. So recently, when I mentored a younger manager, I used a Western metaphor to explain leadership. That is, don’t waste time fixing the wagon wheels, you have a competent team to do that, as a leader spend time looking ahead and assessing your present situation i.e. which direction to take, ensuring everyone has a clear shared vision and consider future direction, including your relationships.
A leader cannot be focused on the past but must be able to look realistically at the present situation, with its good qualities and areas needed for improving. An exceptional leader not only has a focus on the here and now, but also puts practices into place to ensure the good work outlives their tenure. This involves recognizing and cultivating emerging leadership.
Leadership takes courage. Not everything goes according to plan. But as one of the great Western movie actors, John Wayne, said:
“Courage is being scared to death… yet saddling up anyway”.