There was an article recently in “Selling Power Magazine” that featured the quiet management (directing) style of none other than Clint “The Man” Eastwood. For all you busy Execs out there that might not be up on the movie scene, last year Eastwood’s Million Dollar baby won four Oscars including best director and best picture with worldwide gross sales of more than $208 million dollars from an original $30 million dollar budget. He was turned down three times before getting the backing to make the picture. This is nothing new for Eastwood. His directing debut in 1971 saw him gross 10 times the one million dollars it cost to produce “Play Misty for Me” and he completed the film $50,000 dollars under budget. Eastwood takes immense pride in his frugality. He’s been known to call studio execs when he wraps up a film not to brag about how good it is, but to play guessing games about how far under budget he stayed.
Eastwood loves to be efficient and he hates waste. Sound familiar? So how does he do it? Does he pull out that .44 Magnum from Dirty Harry and quietly threaten everyone to do it his way? Actually, according to biographer and longtime friend Richard Schickel, while Eastwood has a powerful presence, his style is low key.
Eastwood has all the makings of what author and business researcher Jim Collins (“Good to Great” & “Built to Last”) refers to as a Level 5 leader. According to Collins, level 5 leaders “embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They also display a compelling modesty while at the same time they are self effacing and understated. Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results. They display a workmanlike diligence- more plow horse than show horse. Level 5 leaders attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility”. Sounds like Clint Eastwood to me!
Taking a closer look at Eastwood, we find a guy whose movie sets are famous for their calm relaxed tone. In his opinion, blustering and yelling betrays insecurity and chaos which only impedes the creative process. As a leader, Eastwood’s approach is less not more. That means less interference with his actors. He is careful to look out for anything the actors might need or want. When Eastwood blows up it’s to go to bat for his team not blowing them away. Above all, he professes total trust in the abilities of his actors. He never asks for screen tests and he never micromanages. He gives them the freedom to do their thing and play around, even if they might make mistakes. And here’s the big secret – actor Tim Robbins said that at first it was scary working for Eastwood because “you wonder if you can do it, and you find out very quickly, you can”. How many of us doubt our own abilities until some coach or manager or colleague puts so much faith in you that you actually excel beyond your wildest imaginings. That won’t happen if you’re a control freak. And it won’t happen if you don’t select the right talent to be on your team to begin with.
. Hey – I like Dirty Harry too, but it won’t help you to build a company – that lasts.
If you’re interested in how to be more like the off screen Clint Eastwood and less like Dirty Harry then give me a call to begin working less and earning more.