So I was thinking about my leadership style. Actually, I was thinking about OUR leadership style and I started thinking about the ways in which it’s unique. Let me give you an example. Early in my career, it was clear to me that the organization that I was working for valued the ‘D’, the dominant personality type, in the DiSC profile. And to be honest, I resented it. It’s not too surprising to you that while I have some ‘D’ characteristics in my personality makeup, it’s not my dominant personality type. I’m much higher on the ‘i’, or influencer.
Personality Profiles And Leadership Ability
When I think back to many of the high ‘D’ personalities in my life, whether work or personal, they were blunt, dominant, manipulative, demanding and arrogant. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I was young, didn’t know a lot – still don’t know a lot! – and my judgment was hasty. I’ve grown to appreciate the need for all personality types in a team. High ‘D’s are often the visionaries and the ones who keep the business pushing to achieve results. Most importantly, high Ds require great leaders to keep them connected to the rest of the team.
As I mentioned in Episode 082 Leading When Disaster Strikes, I grew up in industry. My Dad was a self-employed General Contractor who instilled a deep work ethic in me that I’m forever grateful for. He was an honest man who ALWAYS did top quality work. Dad was and still is a perfectionist and that’s both a blessing and a curse. He was a straight arrow though and the lines between right and wrong were always very clear to me. Thanks Dad!
So in industry, oil and gas, as well as mining, you find a lot of Ds. I don’t know that it’s disproportionate, but it’s substantial. And thankfully, I think it’s changed over the last 20+ years. So here is the part that I resented, both then and now: a personality profile doesn’t determine your ability to be successful as a leader. You can’t use a personality assessment to bucketize a person into a category. A successful leader is one who can influence in spite of her personality type. Because she knows her weaknesses and understands her strengths, she wants a full complement of personalities in her business. Others who aren’t like her but can make up for her areas of weakness.
Doing The Opposite Of What Comes Naturally
In many ways, the leader has to do exactly the opposite of what is most comfortable. Because left to our own tendencies, we will surround ourselves with people who look, act and think like us. The most “diverse” among us will gather then exclude those around us when we stop being intentional about involving those who think differently than we do. So that’s one context for the title of today’s episode. The 180-degree leader does the opposite of what’s comfortable to them.
But as I dug deeper into the concept of 180-degree leadership, I discovered a principle in filmmaking that some of you are probably familiar with. Hang with me here because for a couple minutes it’s going to seem like my voice on Val Brown’s Camera Ready podcast. In my estimation, this principle is equally, and potentially more valuable than the first.
The Establishing Shot And The 180-Degree Rule
In film, the director is constantly working perspective. She has to coordinate the establishing shot. It’s essentially drawing a straight line between the actors/actresses engaged n the scene. This establishing shot keeps the audience oriented as the director maintains all camera angles within a 180-degree arc of that straight line. All camera footage is shooting on the same side of the line as the establishing shot! My son, Nehemiah, has done a lot of video shooting and editing – I hope he’s proud of me for recognizing something that is likely a most basic 101 type of principle!
You don’t realize it when viewing the film, but subconsciously, your brain engages with the 180-degree rule continuously when you are watching the flow in a scene. Violating the rule instantly introduces confusion. For example, if you imagine a scene in a football game and the team with the ball is moving from the left-hand side of your screen to the right-hand side of your screen, maintaining the 180-degree rule establishes that all shots occur from the same side of the line. Your brain can keep up with that whether the camera is behind, in front or in the middle of the action. It makes sense.
Imagine if you were watching the same game and all of a sudden, the camera angle switches to the other side of the line. Now it appears to the viewer that the team with the ball is moving from the right side of your screen to the left side. This is completely disorienting and your brain spends way too much time trying to figure out, losing track of the story.
This rule is used continuously to keep the viewer engaged with the action. A car that leaves a home and drives from the left side of your screen to the right means you are viewing the passenger side of the vehicle. In the U.S. anyway. When that shot line is maintained, your brain interprets that the car is moving further from it’s originating point. It’s consistent with your brain’s expectation that distance is being increased from the starting point. Now, imagine the car is suddenly moving from the right hand of your screen to the left and you are viewing the driver’s side of the car.
What are you thinking? You are now believing that the direction of travel has changed and your brain switches to tell you the driver forgot something and is returning to the originating point. If that’s not the case, and you aren’t trying to communicate this in the scene, then you can imagine the confusion that it introduces. Suddenly, what was making perfect sense before is now completely unintelligible.
There are reasons why directors violate this rule at times: they use it to introduce drama or to purposely disorient the viewer. Imagine a scene of panic where someone is lost in a forest. Violating this rule would increase the drama and tension as well as helping the viewer to connect with the disorientation of the actor or actress.
It gets more interesting as you have multiple action lines within scenes. Each one establishes a new 180-degree rule that informs how the video cameras will be placed. These action lines shift continuously in scenes with movement and engagement. The establishing shot is constantly considered for each new engagement.
Best of all, when you want to intentionally shift to the other side of the action line, you can do it by shooting from the side of the action line the camera is already established on and roll film while you circle around the actors/actresses to the other side of the action line. The director can establish new camera angles without losing the viewer!
So what does any of this have to do with leadership? Well, you, my friend, determine the action line. You must intentionally establish the execution of each shot, each interaction, planning how it is going to progress…in advance. When you become good at this, you can make it look natural and even unplanned. But that’s your secret: you plan very, very well.
Power Of Consistency
If you missed Episode 052: Why Consistency Is King, do yourself a favor and go listen to it – your team will thank you for it! There aren’t many leadership traits more valuable than consistency. You plan, practice, review, adjust and do it again. Over and over. So when it comes time to execute, no one is unsure about their position or where they are going. No one is disoriented because you were unpredictable and lost them. By maintaining a level of predictable consistency, you will not lose your team once the action starts.
There are some brilliant sports analogies that demonstrate this principle. Wayne Gretzky’s father, Walter, famously said that “you skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” The principle of knowing where you and your team are heading is a distinct and powerful competitive advantage.
This is similar to the way a quarterback in football takes the snap, drops three steps and throws the ball before the receiver has finished executing his route. When the receiver turns at the precise, and repeatedly practiced, point on the field, the ball is arriving as soon as his eyes are turned back towards the quarterback. That’s the level of execution you are striving for as a leader. You know your team, you know their talents and abilities, you position them to shine by getting them the ball at the precise moment that enables maximum benefit. It’s art and it’s beautiful and you are crazy if you don’t think this takes a lifetime of practice.
The Right Way To Change Direction
I want to end with this: when you change direction, you must take your team with you by walking them through the change. No reckless or careless movements allowed. By bringing them along, you increase the potential for buy-in and full engagement. Ask questions, give them a chance to voice their concerns, ask them to help you make the necessary changes. This is a much better method than altering course without warning.
So there you have it. I love the concept of the 180 Degree Leader. It’s not just doing the opposite of what comes naturally or avoiding lazy leadership. It’s leading in a way that doesn’t disorient or confuse your team because you established the shot, you thought about the action line, you acted in a way that built confidence because you are consistent and if course correction is required, you communicate.
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