Monday, December 31, 2007

Woody Allen Stay Loose Leadership

Today we take a look at a type of leadership that smacks of totally Stay Loose. It was written on Tuesday, February 08, 2005

THE WOODY ALLEN WAY One way of conducting your super-high, super-serious role as a top manager if you are one of those people at the pyramid's top, has a tremendous lot to do with making the job one nice huge piece of cake. Do you like cake? Here is some cake for you. But what shall we call the ultra-easy process? Catchy titles for this manner of leading out can be very elusive indeed. Management theorists have given various names to different theories on how leaders can go about leading. You've probably heard of Theory X and maybe you've come across Theory Y. There's also general management and there's close supervision. But how about perhaps for now let's just call this new piece of cake, easy management method, something simple. How about Woody Allen Management. It's easy enough. In other words WAM.
The author has studied management for the better part of the 20th century. He probably knows more about this type of laid-back leadership than anyone, most anyone, anyway, just from looking around and seeing how people knock themselves out trying to get stuff done. But consider this. In looking at hot-stuff leadership traits, the notion hits you like a freight train that Woody Allen is probably the one icon who really has a handle on leadership. At least he certainly demonstrates it. Some would unknowingly wonder how so. He has it besides understanding it. He is easily above and beyond what the graduate schools of management can ever teach anyone, anywhere, anytime. The MBA programs the world over cannot ever come close to touching WAM--Woody Allen Management.
Perhaps you have seen Woody's wide-eyed alertness. He uses it as he deals with an almost incomprehensible array of babbling fans. He looks with amazement at the world which is, in a nutshell, the great kernel of truth about what WAM is all about. It's the ingenuous pith of the recipe. It's the guileless blueprint for giving others something to do. It's the WAM approach to handling management problems. It is pure innocence in the face. Appear untainted like Woody and you'll be showing off WAM. Look like you have a full truck load of self-confidence. Innocence is power. Simplicity is genius as in Woody. You would not want to evince guilt now would you. Guilt, for the most part, looks totally suspicious. Appear unpolluted and come off as stainless. Woody Allen Management is a type of posturing that demonstrates totally clearly to anyone wanting to really understand this effective management style, that to be an effective leader, a popular one, and well-liked besides, the leader absolutely must show that he cannot believe what he is hearing when some stupid flunky gives him a load of organizational gobbledygook. The WAM leader says in retort, "Gee, I'm amazed that I'm so uninformed about what you're telling me." In other words there's no fear in admitting to being ignorant. But as a matter of fact, a WAM leader would follow quickly up on his guileless attitude with the one that says right out that he is absolutely not astounded in the least at hearing anything he hears from a greenhorn toady. Including any of the crap he has just heard. Since he is leader, then it can surely only follow that everything is absolutely quite under complete control even when he is daily presented with the absurd. What he does do is leave things alone while keeping the eyes wide open taking in everything that's going on.
Late Show
Take a step back to David Letterman's "Late Show" of February 1st 1994. It is at the 43 minute mark. Julie Kavner is Dave's guest. They are thoughtfully and earnestly discussing Woody Allen. Dave says something to the effect that Woody is almost kind of a non director in that everything sort of goes along and that's fine. Julie says something like and he'll let you know if he doesn't like it or if it's not working and then he'll direct you but other than that he leaves you alone. Bravo. Do you know that with that sort of slack, free approach of leaving alone, almost all effective director behavior, meaning competent leader behavior, is an effortless behavior to portray. Director behavior, we see, has as much power inherent in it as being presidential, since when you are either director, or president, or leader,you are in that wonderful upper spot to guide people around.
In Woody Allen Management then, as you direct others, you merely appear to be open and accepting of others. You illustrate that you are unfettered, unregulated and unrestricted. That is how you do it. Keep the "eyes wide open" tactic in mind. Those peepers that scan the environment, denote wonder. They say to all who see you that there is a willingness to receive information coming into your person and because of it you are unclosed and uncovered. The eyes tell of a willingness to learn and a receptivity to being taught besides. When people put pressure on you to play the phony role, that they think you should play, and how you should not do it like you want to do it, then implementing an effective come-back can help you handle it. It can deflect that ineffective pressure that people put on you to be a leader the way they want you to be leader, but which way, in fact, turns you into a certain kind of highly ineffective flop.
Amazor and Amazee
Playing the role of an effective leader and being aware of the so-called mystery which people attribute to tremendously good leadership readily suggests that you can evince amazement at their suggestions. People love that. People like to shock people. On the other end, people like being the amazee, that is, on the receiving end of bewilderment as it were, and promptly amazed by others. It feels good to be stunned. It probably feels even better to be the amazor. To reiterate, on the flip side, to also feel that incredibly, you are actually amazing someone else, feels absolutely, spectacularly startling.
"That's amazing. Did you see that guy? He was flabbergasted when I told him he oughta do it my way. And he's the president of the company. His eyes were smack open in amazement, like Woody Allen does. The CEO dude was dumbfounded." The president goes home and tells his wife at supper. "I really amazed that supervisor. He thought I was taken aback. My amazement staggered him. I just opened my peepers wide-eyed and bug-eyed. He figured I was as loose as an amazed goose, because I listened to him so raptly and was basically entirely bowled over and open and receptive to what he was saying." His wife says "well that story certainly--pass the macaroni--amazes me dear, that you could even be befuddled but bless you--please pass the green beans--for it dear, and bless Woody Allen too for being such an amazing mentor for you."
Amazed translates lightning quick into learning something new and exciting. Someone who is cock-sure smug about his job and hard pressed to be wordless you absolutely know has not, will not, cannot, ever learn anything to speak of over the long haul that would rank as amazing. But do you know why? It's because he wouldn't be LOOSE. So use the wide-eyed look when you're talking to people you've assigned jobs to who want to get you to pitch in.
"Me?" you say. "You want moi to help you?"
It works if you will only use it. People like thunderstruck people and you will have great fun looking amazed at them. It is mind-blowing how much fun there is in being amazed.
Amazingly Entertained Being baffled is one of the great secrets to being engaging. It is truly the right thing to do if we are not going to be stuck fast in constant ineffective floppiness. Amazement equals effective leadership a la Woody Allen. Take it as a new millenium truism that if you are sufficiently traumatized and/or amazing to people, then that will truly entertain them and put you into leadership territory. You call someone in another state on a cell phone, maybe even over to Hawaii from the mainland and they answer you. You say that this is amazing me calling you on this phone and I'm driving across the desert in Nevada and you're in Hawaii on a movie shoot and I'm talking to you that fast and it amazes me and they wonder about you and the elementary, common things that can amaze you. They wonder about how naive can you be, but they like you for being so amazed that you can call them and talk to them so amazingly easy compared to the forties in the last century when you had to have an operator make the connection for you then she says "go ahead please," before you could talk, and then when you talked you stood up straight leaning against a big square 'phone on a wall, shouting into it.
People in the throes of amusement will love you. They will love you deep down because you have taken the time to let them amaze you and for you to amaze them. Amaze people when you can. Like ordering at the counter in a juice store one day, the author did what he does a lot and that's using different names when ordering, because what difference does it make, they are not entering what name you use in a huge data bank, are they, like they would if they had to know who you really, really are. All they want is a way of calling you when your juice is ready. So having used DeCaprio and Redford and other interesting unknown names, the writer thought that he would use Stefani and the girl taking the order asked him if he was related to her and he said that he was and she said something like are you her Dad or something and he said sure and told her how his son hangs out with a rock group called No Doubt and she was amazed that she would be that close to the degree that she was, to this Stefani entity whose No Doubt group's album CD she had just bought the day before. So she was really amazed that some old fart would breeze in and act like he was really connected.
It was amazing to her and that's what made the whole juice-imbibing incident gratifying not only to her but to the author for having a little fun with amazing names and gracefully doing it. But then he told her that he wasn't really her dad, but that he was only his son's dad and that it was he who hung out with her and her famous San Diego Super Bowl performing and Grammy-winning group.
Like has been said if you have been openly amazed and/or deliberately amazing in your dealings you will have shown that wonderful quality to them with your eyes wide open in a WAM-type genuine style.
In Isolation It all adds up to making it easy to be somewhat all alone 'way up there as the top person. But now we come to a solitary, forlorn, facet of leadership that goes hand in hand with going it alone. Not only as a leader, are you alone, but when it comes time to decide on which way to go, you have to do that alone, too. In this respect, the top spot is a challenge and demands decisiveness. In regard to this, millions of people would take total charge of things if they only could. But they do not, because someone else usually has charge of things for them. They think they cannot be in charge because they have also concluded that there is not enough entertainment in it for them to be bothered with doing it. In other words the fun factor in administering a project is basically nowhere to be seen.

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