Leadership Lessons From Tom Hanks

At the most recent Golden Globe Awards, Tom Hanks, known as the nicest man in Hollywood, received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” As we all know… well deserved.

When receiving the award, Tom Hanks gave one of the most heart-felt acceptance speeches I have ever heard. What made it so memorable were the lessons he shared from his own journey. He recounted a moment in 1977 when he – and the other actors – were “yelled at” by director Dan Sullivan while working at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, Tom’s first professional acting job.

Tom recounted the story for the audience:

“We all got yelled at by Dan Sullivan, the director. We had partied a little bit too much the night before, we were showing up for rehearsals, and he screamed at us. He said, ‘Hey look, you guys, you guys, you actors, you know what your job is? You know what your job is? You have got to show up on time and you have to know the text and you have to have a head full of ideas.'”

This is leadership gold.

  1. Show Up on Time. This piece of gold received the loudest applause from the gathered stars in the room. Tom Hanks called showing up on time “the greatest liberating act you can give yourself.”
  2. Know the Text. By “know the text,” Tom meant to know the entirety of the text, not just your own lines. Know the arch of the story and how your role fits in to the larger role.
  3. Have a Head Full of Ideas. Bring all of your ideas to the table. All of these ideas may not get used, but your job is to bring your full self to the stage and to the production.

As leaders, as managers, as team members, we have the responsibility t0 do the same. To show up on time. This is self-explanatory. To know the “text.” For organizational leaders and team members, this means to know the arch of the organization and how your role fits. To not only be an expert in your role, but to understand how you contribute to the success of the whole. And, finally to come with a head full of ideas. To bring all of your ideas to the table, to share these ideas and be prepared for these ideas to be rejected. Yet, to not take this rejection personally and keep coming back with ideas.

These actions are the making of a empowering culture: (1) Show up on time. (2) Show up prepared. (3) Show up with all of your ideas.

Every. Single. Day.

I encourage you to watch the speech in its entirety here:

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