I know we have talked about it before, but I had a new thought the other day about “leadership.” I was thinking of it from the perspective of running a business and I was trying to think of who I would look up to as a role model, someone I think embodies the traits that I would want to emulate to be a good leader. And I came up with someone. Are you ready?
His name is Captain Jack. Are you thinking of the pirate? Well, think again, it is not Johnny Depp, although the person I am thinking of is a fictional character, immortalized on screen by one of our greatest actors.
Captain Jack Aubrey. Unsure who that is? Captain Jack Aubrey was the subject character of a series of books about the English Navy, portrayed on screen by Russell Crowe in “Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World”. This is one of my favorite movies and I try to watch it at least once a year.
So as I was watching it last night, I was examining it from the perspective of what makes him such an effective leader. He is no different from any of us who run businesses. But as young business owners and management, we have a difficult job. We want to be friendly, we want to create a good working environment, but we also want to be free to discipline if necessary and we desperately need everyone to be working towards the same goals. So how do you do that? Well, first and foremost, you need to set the goals.
I have a confession to make: I was never big on setting goals. Once I had graduated from law school and passed the Bar examination, I never really thought about goals as far as my practice. I always just thought that the practice of law flowed along. A goal to me is a destination, and other than retirement, what kind of a destination could be found in the practice of law? I would expect that a lot of you may have had similar thoughts. A lot of us are service providers and we are dissimilar from a baseball team that sets a goal of winning the World Series, an army that sets its goal on winning a war, or a retail establishment that sets its goal on opening a store in every city in the country.
Well, surely I have reformed my thinking in that respect and am now working on the second part of the process, getting everyone to sign-on to that goal. And as I am sure you all know, it isn’t easy. So I look for other leaders, and so what if they are the larger than life variety found in television and movies and books?
Sure, I could look to George C. Scott in “Patton”. I could check out Mel Gibson in “Braveheart”. Or even Jean-Claude Van Damme in “Universal Soldier”. But I selected Captain Jack. And without analyzing the movie frame by frame, I can tell you what it was about him that made me want to join his crew. The sensitivity with which he dealt with tragic events, the way he took the time to train the younger sea-men, the way he disciplined the crew when need be, and the overarching focus on the goal.
I could go on and on about why I would be first in line to sign up to sail with Captain Jack, but I will leave you with this. This is an interaction that Captain Jack has with an officer who has failed to achieve the crew’s respect:
Midshipman Hollom: I’ve tried to get to know the men, sir, and be friendly, but they’ve taken a set against me. Always whispering when I go past and giving me looks.
Captain Jack: You don’t make friends with the foremastjacks, lad. They’ll despite you in the end, think you weak. Nor do you need to be a tyrant. Look, Hollom, it’s leadership they want. Strength. Now, you find that within yourself, and you will earn their respect. Without respect, true discipline goes by the board.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly encourage it. For a film that has only 2 major battles, the 2 and 1/2 hours fly by, all because of Captain Jack.
“Aye Aye Captain!”