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6 Leadership & Entrepreneurial Lessons from Francis Ford Coppola

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Francis Ford Coppola went to film school without expecting to make feature films. He and his peers knew that breaking into an industry dominated by big name directors wouldn’t be easy. Yet Coppola managed to get into the business through hard work, determination, and pure enthusiasm.

Leaders and entrepreneurs can learn much from Coppola’s industrious career, his commitment to his craft, and his work routines. Follows are a 6 key lessons that can be learned

1. How to Risk: Never Gamble

Before Paramount green-lighted the Godfather 2 Coppola had already invested around a million dollars on sets. While it sounds like a gamble, Coppola didn’t think so. He says, “This notion of me being a risk taker isn’t really so true. It’s just that once we’re making the film we don’t want to stop…in a naïve way we think it’ll all work out.”

Coppola doesn’t think in terms of risk, but rather interest. By following his passion he ignored worry and headache and concentrated on creating a strong film.

Lesson: Leaders and entrepreneurs must ignore risk and pursue their goal. And, of course, they must remember the only real risk, according to Coppola is “to waste your life, so that when you die, you say, ‘Oh, I wish I had done this.’”

2. On Creativity: Ruin Your Books!

Creativity strikes without rhyme or reason and Coppola recommends writing down all your ideas with a time stamp and a description of where you are. Notes frame ideas and can be used as reference points for future projects. Extra information like the date and your location may prove invaluable years later.

Coppola also writes in the margins of books and when he’s done reading them, tears out key passages and pastes them into a notebook where he takes even more notes.

Catalogue your ideas and if inspired with a passage of text, rip it out, print it, copy it out, or write it down. You never know when it will inspire you. Coppala would use his notebooks more than his scripts on his movie sets.

Lesson: Assiduously take notes and collect material that interests you. It can help when you least expect it.

3. How to Make It? Fake It.

Coppola got his start working for Roger Corman who had bought a Russian sci-fi movie. Corman wanted a rewrite and Coppla jumped at the chance though he didn’t speak Russian. When Corman asked if he knew anything about sound, he lied and said he did. Later that night, he went home and read all the microphone instruction booklets he could find. And when Corman asked him to wash his car he did that too. Coppola rose to all challenges (both big and small) so he could work within the industry he loved.

Lesson: It’s fine to fudge the truth and learn on the job—and no job is too petty if you’re doing what you love.

4. On Decision Making: Have a Theme

Like leaders and entrepreneurs, directors have to make a million decisions everyday—some tiny, some huge. And Coppola found that he didn’t always have an answer. To remedy the problem Coppola decided to let the theme of his projects guide each of his decisions. Coppola says, “I remember in The Conversation, they brought all these coats to me, and they said: Do you want him to look like a detective, Humphrey Bogart? Do you want him to look like a blah blah blah. I didn’t know, and said the theme is ‘privacy’ and chose the plastic coat you could see through. So knowing the theme helps you make a decision when you’re not sure which way to go.”

Lesson: All decisions should be made with your business identity or brand in mind.

5. Steal! 

Coppola believes in the great artistic tradition of stealing. Coppola knows that whenever an idea is taken it changes in the hands of the owner and becomes unique. Artists, Coppola feels, should be flattered by the imitation. He advises, “Don’t worry about whether it’s appropriate to borrow or to take or do something like someone you admire because that’s only the first step and you have to take the first step.”

Lesson: Steal with abandon, but don’t begrudge others when they incorporate your ideas.

6. Remember, Work With Teams

Coppola uses ideas from the people he works with. He believes in collaboration, not command and control. “You can make the decision that you feel is best,” Coppola says, “but listen to everyone, because cinema is collaboration.”

Lesson: While you may have the ultimate say, you should always keep in mind the expertise and knowledge of others.

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6 Ways Jane Austen Would Have Survived Cubicle Life


Jane Austen is credited with creating some of literature’s first “modern characters.”

“Modern characters” are just normal people doing normal things. They aren’t powerful warriors in the vein of Achilles or tormented queens like Lady Macbeth.

They’re just the ordinary people you meet every day.

But these characters are hardly boring. Instead, modern characters are recognizable personalities that can teach us a lot about the frustrations and joys of social interactions and institutions.

Jane Austen helped shape this modern movement from a small rectory in North East Hampshire, a few rented rooms in Bath, and a modest house in Hampshire. Her life was quiet and filled with financial stresses, a failed romance, and numerous family dramas.

Austen had little schooling and she never had the time or money to discuss literary theory with London’s primer authors. Yet she wrote six novels that were well regarded both in her century and in ours.

Austen’s ability to observe and her persistence helped her become an accomplished writer–but would these same skills and sensibilities help her survive the modern office? Would her independent and sharp nature thrive in a world of lay-offs and “action-plans”?

These silly questions led me to think of a few reasons Jane Austen might have succeeded in the modern office:

1. Austen Knew How to Deal With Boredom

It’s easy to see Austen making copies and collating documents when she writes in Mansfield Park, “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

Indeed, Austen has the mental fortitude and the jaded wisdom to survive the minutia of office life. Her ability to look at cubicle life as a collection of minor actions will afford her the opportunity to pursue larger goals to stave off ennui. Boredom often produces brilliance.

2. Austen Would Deal With Failure

In 1803 Austen’s brother, Henry, went to a London publisher named Benjamin Crosby. He showed Crosby Austen’s first novel, Susan, an epistolary novel centered around a brash young women. Crosby liked what he saw and bought the book for 10 pounds–but he never published it. Later, Austen wrote a long and angry letter to Crosby asking for the rights to Susan back. Crosby agreed–if Austen could pay back the 10 pounds. Austen couldn’t afford the price and had to leave Susan unpublished.

Lots of writers would lose confidence after a slow, dragged-out rejection–but Austen kept writing and trying to get published. In today’s business world, Austen’s determination would have earned her a few promotions and the respect of her peers.

3. Austen Understands the Golden Leadership Rule

It’s odd when you read an interview with a CEO and they DON’T mention the importance of having a smart team. The golden rule in business demands that you surround yourself with people who can do crossword puzzles faster than you.  Austen agrees. In her novel Persuasion the following dialogue occurs between the obstinate Anne and Mr. Elliot:

“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”

“You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company, that is the best.”

Austen would only mix with the hard-working, book-loving, strivers in any office and this would propel her career.

4. Austen Could Take Constructive & Un-constructive Criticism

The most scathing critique of Austen comes from Mark Twain. Twain wrote to a friend, “Jane [Austen] is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.” Thankfully, Austen wasn’t around to hear Twain’s remark.

However, Austen faced critics in her own time with little irritation.

In 1811 she published Sense & Sensibility and made a good profit and collected favorable reviews. Soon after, she published Mansfield Park which was panned by critics, but was extremely popular. Austen didn’t let high-brow criticism drown her ambitions and she went on to write Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.

5. Austen Could Work From Home

We hear the real Jane Austen, momentarily, in Mrs. Elliot’s character in Emma.

She says to the meddling Emma: “Ah! there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort. Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.”

Austen rarely traveled and rarely expressed a desire to see the corners of the earth. She was the most productive at home and her mother and sisters would do extra chores so Austen could write without disturbance.

She would have been at home in today’s virtual economy where everything is done remotely, out-of-office, and through email or video chat. Austen could have climbed the corporate ladder without leaving her settee since she was self-motivated and didn’t need a boss or a commute to inspire her to action.

6. Austen Didn’t Like Stupid People

Austen was a master at reading people, mapping out their actions, and dissecting their intentions. All six of her novels prove this point.

But ultimately Austen could judge a person’s intellect by using one criterion.

In Northanger Abbey Austen’s urbane Henry Tilney says, “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

While these words don’t necessarily echo Austen’s sentiment–they probably aren’t too far off. Austen, it would seem, wouldn’t tolerate stupid co-workers.

But the quote also illustrates that Austen valued self-improvement. Novels helped Austen learn more about her craft and the world around her. Her efforts to learn, develop, and grow would have been valued at any firm.

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PART II: Do You Innovate Like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? 5 Innovation Strategies of The Rolling Stones


In the first part of this column we explored how The Beatles harnessed their creativity and innovated. Now we will look at how The Rolling Stones innovated so we can ask: who do you relate to more as a leader, entrepreneur, or HR manager: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

Let us know!

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PART I: Do You Innovate Like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? 5 Innovation Strategies of The Beatles

The Beatles

In 1971 The Beatles’ John Lennon said, “Every f***ing thing we did, Mick [Jagger] does exactly the same—he imitates us.”

For Lennon, Mick Jagger’s The Rolling Stones weren’t innovators much as they were followers.

However, both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones developed unique techniques and strategies that allowed them to produce innovative, groundbreaking work.

The question is: as an entrepreneur or leader which band do you relate to more? Which approaches to work and creativity do you embrace?

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blg-inc-edu-logo-v.2The Bacharach Leadership Group is excited to announce their exciting partnership with, a corporate university founded by exclusively focused on helping entrepreneurs and small businesses leaders to drive growth. BLG will host two workshops, Master the Skills of Influence & Lead Your Teams For Growth, in NYC, DC, and LA in 2015.These two day workshops will help you grow your business, execute business strategy, more effectively market and sell your products and services, and get all of your employees in your business motivated. These workshops will help you get buy-in from employees, customers, business partners, and investors.

The Master The Skills of Influence workshops will be led by BLG co-founder, Cornell University’s McKelvey-Grant Professor, and columnist, Samuel Bacharach. The Lead Your Teams for Growth workshops will be led by Yael Bacharach who is an executive coach, a practicing psychotherapist, and Cornell University Coaching course author. and BLG have worked together to tailor content used by industry leaders like Cisco, SunGard, and the Warner Music Group for entrepreneurs and small business leaders.
If you’d like to register for the upcoming workshops being offered by BLG and do so soon. The NYC workshop begins on February 24h. Space is limited and seats are available on a first come-first serve basis. Bring a colleague or your team to scale your business growth even more.

To learn more and register, please go to

Here are the workshop outlines:

Master the Skills of Influence, February 24-25

In this 2-Day workshop, you will develop the political skills necessary to get buy-in for your ideas so you can execute, get results, keep your teams motivated and grow your business
Learn how to:
  • Master the skills of influence to grow sales & customer satisfaction
  • Persuade and win people over to attract investors and customers
  • Overcome & anticipate resistance to change
  • Map the political terrain for allies and resistors
  • Decipher the agendas of others
  • Pitch your ideas
  • Negotiate and mobilize a motivated coalition

Lead Your Teams for Growth, February 26-27

In this 2-Day workshop, you will develop the skills necessary to sustain momentum,  motivate your teams and keep the growth ball rolling.  More effective leaders and teams result in greater sales and customer satisfaction.

Learn how to:

  • Balance facilitative and directive leadership
  • Acquire a coaching mindset to build your team’s capacity to drive growth
  • Lead for engagement to drive and sustain motivation
  • Master the skills of constructive dialogue for difficult situations
  • Maximize the potential of your team to grow your business
  • Partner for goal achievement