Almost Every Great Leader Is At Times a Good Actor
While authenticity is certainly required, an occasional flair for the dramatic can transform an ordinary moment into something special.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
It's no accident that Steve Jobs loved to say, "But there is one more thing..." during Apple keynotes.
Good leaders must possess a wide variety of skills. To be a great leader, there's one other skill you may never have considered: A flair for the dramatic.
Of course that doesn't mean you should pretend to be something you're not. The key is to add a little drama to make certain moments even more meaningful and impactful.
A story ex-NASCAR driver Rick Mast once told me about Dale Earnhardt (Senior) is a great example.
Dale wasn't just a legendary driver -- the NASCAR Mount Rushmore includes Richard Petty, Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, and a driver to be named later -- but also an outstanding businessman who built a business and marketing empire.
In the early 90s Rick was hosting a charitable function and was looking for a "name" that would draw a crowd. So he asked Earnhardt to participate. Dale agreed, but on one condition. Since his schedule was packed he could only attend the event for two hours.
Rick agreed. A little Dale was infinitely better than no Dale at all.
A huge number of fans lined up hours before the event began. Earnhardt arrived on time and met fans and signed autographs. When his time was almost up, he gave Rick a subtle glance.
Mast took the hint and moved a rope barrier into place, saying, "I'm sorry, folks, but if you are behind this line we won't be able to accommodate you. We're almost out of time."
Several hundred people groaned and slowly began to drift away. Dale kept his head down, signed one more autograph... and with a keen sense of timing glanced up and said, "Hey.... what's going on?"
Heads turned. Confused, Rick stammered, "I... I told them we are out of time, Dale."
"What?" he half-shouted. "You might be out of time, but I'm not. I ain't leaving until I've met everybody here!"
The crowd cheered. The line instantly reformed. And Earnhardt created a few hundred more fans for life.
"Sure, he kinda made me look bad," Rick told me, "but I didn't mind at all. That was just Dale being Dale."
Since I feel sure Earnhardt always intended to stay to the end, he could have just signed and smiled and made everyone happy.
Instead he maximized the impact of his appearance with a little theater, one that definitely worked. The people he "stayed" to meet surely felt special; after all, Dale had stayed for them.
And I feel sure they later said something like this to their friends: "You should have seen it. They were about to send us all home, but Dale stepped in and said he wasn't leaving until he met everybody there!"
Theatrical? Yep. Calculated? Probably. Effective?
The same principle applies to the way you treat your employees.
Say you're presenting an employee award. Turn the occasion into a moment the recipient can share with others. Find a simple way to increase the impact -- for the person being honored, and for those who participate. (And maybe for the person's family.)
Or when you hire new employees, do more than simply turn them over to a mentor or trainer. Find a way to make them feel like a part of the company family -- right away.
Take the time to make even the smallest events noteworthy and those moments will build a company culture much more effectively than posters, banners, and mission statements.
Most employees will never talk about mission statements.
But they will always talk about -- and remember -- how you made them feel.