Most people that know me, know that I am not a huge follower of the Oscars and don’t usually know most of the films that are nominated. This year, however, I was familiar with several and I happened to be snowed in at a girls’ weekend in Northern Minnesota the Sunday evening of the 95th Oscars. So, we made a few wagers, watched one of the nominated movies most of us hadn’t seen yet, The Fabelmans, enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel as the emcee, and were moved to tears by several of the award winners’ speeches.
As I listened and then thought about the winners this past week, I couldn’t help but think about the connections to the leadership attributes and values we subscribe to and that we see in the most successful firms we serve. This post is about six leadership values we can witness in this year's Oscar nominees and award winners and apply in our own organizations:
1.“We” Won! – Jamie Lee Curtis exclaimed as she accepted her first Oscar at 64 years old. The humility she showed crediting the “hundreds of people” who were part of her journey to winning an Oscar is a fundamental leadership attribute that is often missing in firms and leaders. It’s about the team and the synergies possible because of everyone’s unique gifts they bring to the table, instead of “me” and what “I” accomplished. We don’t really achieve much on our own; others contribute to us and support us and our cause, initiative, or goals. Powerful leaders are humble leaders who, instead of selfishly taking the credit, share the credit and acknowledge those who contributed along the way.
2. Amplify Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) – This year’s Oscars were full of diversity and inclusion. Jimmy Kimmel highlighted it in his opening monologue, and you could see DE&I in this year’s nominees and award winners. Most profound was Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian woman to win Best Actress, and Ke Huy Quan, who cited his background in his acceptance speech: “My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood's biggest stage…This– this is the American dream.” Our country is built on this diversity and promise of the American dream, and yet we have so much further to go to truly be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Leaders that make DE&I a strategic initiative with measurable goals and financial incentives for the firm and its leaders are making headway and reaping the benefits according to McKinsey, “In terms of ethnic and cultural diversity, the effect is even stronger: Top-quartile companies were 36% more likely to outperform bottom-quartile ones in return on equity.” However, even with the progress they’re making, there still are barriers to tackle and overcome, so DE&I needs to be prominent in your firm’s strategic plan.
3. Dream Big – The Oscars are all about dreaming big. The writers, directors, actors and actresses all see something possible and rally together to create a movie that resonates with millions of viewers. And, as individuals, not giving up on our dreams was a definite theme of this year’s Oscars. “To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive,” Ke Huy Quan implored the audience. Dan Kwan, one of the directors of Everything Everywhere, All at Once, shared the hope he wants to bring young people today: “I think the radical transformative power of joy and absurdity and chasing your bliss is something that I want to bring to people who are like me when I was that age…And I really hope that the next generation can watch a movie like ours and just be like, ‘Oh.’ Because there is another way to look at the bleakness, and another way to face it head on.” Leaders who develop and enroll others in their dreams and vision for what they see possible create teams who rally to fulfill on that dream.
4. Be Unstoppable – Several of the movies, nominees and award winners demonstrated ConvergenceCoaching’s leadership attribute of being unstoppable. Whether it’s overcoming your own personal demons as depicted in The Whale or rising up in the face of incredible grief and an attack on your homeland in the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, we all have to look deep inside ourselves to overcome obstacles and achieve our dreams. Michelle Yeoh said, “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up.” Ke Huy Quan summed it up best when he credited his wife for never giving up: "I owe everything to the love of my life, my wife, Echo, who month after month, year after year for 20 years, told me that one day my time will come.” Leaders, who persist and are unstoppable despite their negative internal dialogues, roadblocks from outside forces and circumstances, or people who just say it cannot be done, know the power of not giving up on your dreams.
5. Empower Your Next Generation While Honoring Your Past – Several of the nominated movies did a great job of honoring the past, but at some point, moved forward to focus on their future. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the writers and directors did a beautiful job of honoring Chadwick Boseman, the original Black Panther, and allowed the characters their humanity and individual ways of grieving. But then they rallied and built the next better for Wakanda and the world. Future-ready firm leaders know this truth: we can’t get stuck in our legacy or how we’ve always done things, because that complacency will hold us back. Instead, these leaders know the balance of honoring the success of our past, but are willing to let it go so it doesn’t constrain NextGen leaders who are building firms and teams for the future.
6. Laugh – Jimmy Kimmel definitely brought laughter to the Oscars as did several of the award winners in their speeches. Laughter brings joy, healing, and perspective. It helps us not take ourselves too seriously. We bond with others when we laugh together, and you could see that in the audience at the Oscars. We see it in our Convergence team, too, where one of our firm values is having fun that includes lots of laughter while working on important things together. Leaders that understand there is a place for laughter and find ways to have fun with their team, engender camaraderie and connectedness so we can do hard things together. Life is too short, and we spend a lot of our time at work, so we may as well have fun and laugh together.
I’m sure there are many other examples we can take from this year’s Oscar nominees and award winners. For the most part, we watch movies for entertainment; however, those movies that touch us most deeply or have a lasting impact are often those that exemplified leaders we look up to or want to emulate.
What were your takeaways from this year’s Oscars that we can apply in our own leadership journeys? I’d love to hear your thoughts!