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A Champion Leader in Hollywood – Not Perfect But He Gets Results

This past weekend was the annual Academy Awards show where Hollywood’s finest are recognized for their previous year’s work. One of James Cameron, a champion leader in many traits, others not so much the biggies was the movie, Avatar, and its director James Cameron.

Cameron exhibits many characteristics of a Champion Leader, such as a driven commitment for success and being a visionary; Avatar was his vision more than a decade before the technology was available to actually produce it.

But, Cameron also has some leadership traits that may be counter to my Champion Leader Traits but they work for him in his industry and environment.

In a recent blog at the Harvard Business Review, author Rebecca Keegan wrote about Cameron’s “often controversial management style,” from insights she observed while researching her book about the Hollywood director.

It seems Cameron’s style is somewhat autocratic on the set and he defaults too much to the side of “position power” (something I will be writing about in an upcoming Champion Leadership Tip). However, on the flip side he does have enough humility (a key Champion Leader Trait) to know it, so he hires others as buffers to help him smooth his rough edges.

That approach is very much in sync with this week’s Champion Leadership Tip #18 – Hire Great People.

Another similar type of leader, although I really don’t know Cameron enough to compare, is someone like college basketball coach Bobby Knight. Many question his tactics in the heat of the moment and many have argued he needs anger management therapy, but few can argue with his results. Additionally when you hear his former athletes speak of him they all look back fondly on what they learned from him and who they became as adults because of their experience with him.

As my clients learn in “Influencing Skills – How to Communicate Like a Champion Leader” there are only 3 times leaders should resort to using “position power” in times, one of them is when the commitment to a shared vision is so strong others want and need that type of leadership to succeed (such as winning an athletic championship, producing the largest grossing Hollywood movie of all time (maybe)). In these type of initiatives those being led allow the position power approach because they know it is in there best interests to make them better.

Athletics, making Hollywood movies and the military are some professions that will tend to lean toward the more autocratic, position power type of leadership. Outside of those scenarios, there are only two other situations when position power should be applied in leadership. We’ll address those in next Monday’s “Champion Leadership Tip.”

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