I recently sat down with Father and watched a short piece on James Cameron and his ground-breaking cinematic epic, Avatar. Avatar sets a new standard for movies to come, employing the use of digital 3D actors based off of real ones. While the film offers enough eye-candy to warrant a trek to the theater, it was the making of the film that struck me most. All software editing and programming aside, the success (or possible failure, though I can’t envision this) of this film depends upon one thing: James Cameron himself.
A notorious stickler for detail (perhaps obsessive control freak is more appropriate), the buck stops at Cameron. There is no democratic process on the set. It’s his way. Period. Cameron wears a hat with a simple, block-letter embroidery, “HMFIC.” This serves as a simple, visual reminder to himself that Cameron is indeed the “Head Mother Fucker in Charge.” While at the surface, this may seem tyrannical and unfair, for such a grandiose project, this leadership is a necessity. No doubt that the director will call upon the advice of others if he is looking for a second opinion, but in any clashes, questions, indecisions, it all comes down to one man. If the movie flops, odds are that Cameron will not be too crushed. It is his masterpiece, sink or swim, and like Old Blue Eyes, he did it his way.
Ironically, on the very same day, the universe conspired to have me stumble upon a leadership presentation by Colin Powell that is definitely worth a read. It should take you about 20 minutes, but will render some lessons that can affect you for life. Any time there is a group interaction, leadership of some sort comes into play, making deeper knowledge of the concept quite empowering. The ideas can be applied to fields like the military, business, and other social situations. One idea that really resonated with me in this report was that to be a good leader, you will probably have to piss some people off. Being fair and trying to treat everyone equally is a recipe for disaster.
For instance: I’m the president of the sales division of a start-up. Two of my five employees are making 70% of the sales. I could “be fair” and present an even commission structure to the entire group, in an attempt to satisfy everyone. But these attempts will only bother the best and most valuable of the workforce. Alternatively, I could offer a higher commission rate to my best salespeople. This might present some frustration to the inferior performers, but if I have to upset one contingent of people, shouldn’t it be the worse performers? Fairness is a touchy word and should be approached with caution from an executive role. I’d go so far to call it subjective. My fair might be different from your fair.
So, in closing, step up, and make your decisions with impunity. Stand by them, believe in them, and don’t be afraid about upsetting people, as it’s probably going to happen anyway. Reach down and find your HMFIC voice, and realize that sometimes you need to be the relentless tyrant, the alpha and the omega, the head motherfucker in charge.