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Leadership Lessons from "Kings Speech" Director Tom Hooper

Leadership Lessons from "Kings Speech" Director Tom Hooper

Matt Charney | MonsterThinking

March 01, 2011

TH: With the coming of radio, suddenly the King needed to speak live not only to his nation, but to a vast global audience of 58 countries. The question then becomes: can the king connect emotionally with his people and his empire? I think that’s what it’s really all about: to lead, you need to connect in an emotionally relevant way with the public.

It’s a trend that’s still going on: look at the midterm elections. People aren’t asking if Obama really cares, or if he’s really, truly connecting emotionally with the public. What’s important is that, on television, on the internet, he’s perceived as caring, can convey an emotional attachment to people. This anxiety that’s so common now, this whole “Do they care?” expectation, really all starts with the radio and George VI.

What’s interesting now is the infatuation with perception has extended to everyone in America. With the coming of social media, many of us are deploying this kind of “second version” of ourselves through Facebook and Twitter, so this issue of how we broadcast ourselves and publically present ourselves has stopped being a leadership issue to really become a generational issue: how do we broadcast a version of ourselves?

MT: As a director, what have you learned from studying these great leaders from history that’s changed the way you personally look at communicating with or managing people?

TH: Great question. I felt this way much more with my earlier films, John Adams and The Damned United; the risk in the film industry is, that when a director gets a lot of success, they tend to think that they’re the only people responsible for it and it’s all them.

I’ve learned that the important thing is that if you’re lucky enough to enjoy success, you’ve got to remember the conditions by which this success happened and replicate it. That’s why I work with the same people from project to project; I honor their past successes by hiring them again and having the humility to recognize how key these collaborations were not only to my past projects, but my future ones as well.

My view about leadership is simple: don’t be snobbish about what you’ll accept or what you’re willing to do or the level you’re willing to do it at. There’s no substitute for hands on experience, and you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and really work hard to get where you want to go, even if you’re the King of England, but certainly when you’re a director.

The King’s Speech is now playing in select theaters.

This article was originally published on The MonsterThinking Blog

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