BLG Leadership Insights Leadership Videos

Alfred Hitchcock’s Leadership Style [Video]

Alfred Hitchcock, director of over 60 films, said, “When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?, I say, ‘Your salary.’”

His no-nonsense leadership style, while not endearing to actors, propelled Hitchcock from his position as an assistant director in an English studio to one of the biggest names in Hollywood in fewer than five years.

Hitchcock was born in England, the son of a greengrocer, and got his start in the film business by drawing sets and title cards. He quickly and passionately absorbed the processes involved in making films and started to write scripts for practice.

His dedication paid off and he was eventually allowed to direct his own full-length movies in England. His success brought him to Hollywood where he searched for bigger and better opportunities.

The rest is history. Hitchcock became a household name, synonymous with murder, intrigue, and espionage.

On the set Hitchcock was a notoriously low-key, hands-off leader who expected his crew and actors to do the job they were responsible for. According to one anecdote Doris Day eventually approached Hitchcock on the set of the The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and wondered if she was doing a good job. He said he didn’t think she was doing a bad job and that was the end of it. He wasn’t prone to emotional flare-ups or tense dramatic moments. He simply wanted to get the job done.

In a more dramatic incident, Hitchcock called actors “cattle,” but later recanted his original statement and said, “My actor friends know I would never be capable of such a thoughtless, rude and unfeeling remark, that I would never call them cattle . . . What I probably said was that actors should be treated like cattle.”

Hitchcock believed in an authoritarian system that required his actors and crew to be autonomous while being responsive to commands.

Before Hitchcock set about making any film he would have most components planned before he began shooting. He was detail orientated, had no room for improvisations, and didn’t have kind feelings for ideas outside the boundaries he set. Each film was mapped out and rarely subjected to tinkering after it had been finalized.

Hitchcock blended a highly organized authoritative leadership structure with his laid-back, everyone-can-do-their-jobs attitude. His peculiar mix of leadership styles worked and it created tight story lines, fostered consistent productivity, and earned numerous industry accolades while letting the people he worked with flourish naturally.

Hitchcock was a champion of common sense (he once said, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder”) and a creative powerhouse. His ability to get things done while still being able to express himself consistently was a true skill and one that informs his dichotomous leadership style. A leadership method that combined practicality with a sharp focus on individual imagination and ingenuity.

Picture Credit: Moneysox

Leadership On the Edge

10 Great Proactive Leadership Links: October 5-9

HowtoSucceed1. Great interview with Henry Mintzberg, author of The Nature of Managerial Work. He talks about his new book and the difference between leadership and management.

2. Detailed and informative read on innovation, its conception, its growth, and its rate of success. The article discusses the concept of creativity as being a small step into the long process of innovation.

3. In-depth look at 4 leadership theories. Great stuff from Academic Leadership.

4. I love finding great examples of leadership in interesting stories. It makes the lesson that much more memorable. So, here’s one from Mom.

5. What can we learn from a bad leader? A lot. Follow this Twitter feed and learn what NOT to do….

BLG Leadership Insights

Proactive Leaders Series: Ada Dolch

Ada Rosario Dolch has spent the first part of her career shaping NYC public school students into leaders, thinkers, and doers. She taught at John Dewey High School for 15 years and was principal at the High School for Leadership and Public Service from 1995 to 2004.

Today she is executive director of the Executive Leadership Institute—a organization committed to crafting, mentoring, and inspiring public school leaders in NYC. Ada’s passion, enthusiasm, and strength are contagious and she is well suited to inspire future generations of NYC’s brightest principals and administrators.

She has also movingly contributed to Forever After.

In the following interview Ada talks about how important it is for leaders to be passionate. In our last post we discussed how important it is during these times to stay committed to the core values and not to throw out the ‘baby with the bath water’. In no area is this more important than in the field of education where leaders are challenged to make sure that in their effort to deal with the economic crisis they make sure that they keep their focus on the essentials and realize that quality education must survive all the turmoil that may come with short-term economic upheaval. This interview with Ada highlights many of these points and is relevant for those not only in education but for any proactive leader trying to take charge in these times.

1. How many NYC principals do you work with?

The Council of School Supervisor’s and Administrators (Union for NYC school administrators), itself supports over 5,000 active members… …and so we can have any one of those 5,000 members going through these doors at any time–attending our workshops or getting help.

2. Recently I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot of news discussing Department of Education job cuts. How is that affecting the morale and hope of the teachers, principals, and leaders within the Department?

In my office we’re very concerned because a lot of funding we receive comes directly from the Department of Education and the City Council or public funding or even grants. The funding we may get is being cut. Maybe people who would have been quick to donate may not even have the funds anymore.

So yeah, an entire world is in an economic mess. It was just this morning that the governor was unveiling his new taxes (5 cents on water [laughs])! We’re all facing that fear…we don’t know about our jobs…Bloomberg gave a ray of hope to us the other day by saying that education cuts won’t be made and it’s been a relief…but still principals are worrying about future cuts…and it’s worrying principals and causing a drop in hope everywhere.

3. How are you sustaining momentum and keeping hope alive during this crisis?

Day in and day out my work and the work of a principal is not about worrying about the budget, although I do have to be a good steward of my dollars, but I have to think about what I have to deliver to my kids every day: it’s called education. I also need to worry about the welfare and safety of these kids.

4. So the momentum is ‘ingrained’?

Yes. Exactly, recently I had a friend ask, ‘How do these times effect a teacher; the classroom?’  I remember lean years. The principal would give the teacher two pieces of chalk and say, “Here, it’s for the whole week”…We have no clue what that means today. It’s been great for, what 7, 10 years now, but it’s changing again.

Part of what sustains the momentum right now is that a lot of us have experienced some of this. The younger supervisors haven’t obviously, but there are enough of us that have been through lean times before and we realize that a lot of the frills are gone but we still have to do our job well.

5. It is important that a staff maintain a sense of collective cohesiveness? Is it more difficult to build this during more trying times?

I’m going to say the opposite. If you have already established a culture of real kinship in your school with your staff and others in the school community, then in difficult times we rally around each other and support each other.  If you haven’t established that then this isn’t the time people will come together. People aren’t feeling comfortable and people are starting to hurt.