I finally watched Gone With the Wind. People routinely rate it one of the top movies. Watching it, you automatically rate it by the standards of its time. But watch the acting these iconic scenes.
The morning after watching the movie, I woke up realizing how ungenuine and inauthentic the acting was. Sure, by the standards of its time, the acting was probably great. But watch this scene, the opening scene of the movie. Do you not see what are supposed to be grown men behaving like caricatures of children?
At 0:56 the man shows his happiness by dancing.
What grown man dances and whoops to show happiness for such a trivial reason?
Actors call such acting indicating, which means behaving to indicate the emotion the character feels instead of behaving how people actually behave when they feel those emotions.
Leaders and entrepreneurs today indicate signs of leadership by dressing fancy and doing what they think leaders are supposed to do. They create elevator pitches as an end goal instead of devoting themselves to their passion so that explaining their work becomes concise from practice.
Look at this scene where Rhett Butler decides to go to war. Who, deciding to risk his life, would behave like he does? Nobody.
The scene is visually beautiful. Much of the movie is about looking beautiful—the blocking, the wardrobe, the casting, and so on. Rhett’s describing his love at 1:40 makes for a visually pleasing movie poster, but nobody talks like him, nor would any woman listen to him like she does. They’re indicating.
Watch movies from then and earlier, before the revolution had gone mainstream of actors seeking not perfection, nor movies bigger sets or more beautiful wardrobes, of what we call method acting.
Genuineness and authenticity
What we call method acting is a style of learning and working to embody roles. Instead of trying for perfection or visual beauty, method actors learn the role and act authentically to how a person would act in the situation of the movie.
Watch the actors in these videos:
They aren’t indicating. Their representations, at least to me, seem genuine. the scenes might not make for movie posters, but they draw us in more. We believe them more.
Watch how Daniel Day-Lewis describes his dedication to the craft of his art, what he does to learn the character he plays. Many people talk about trying to understand others and to empathize with them.
If you lead others, you will lead them more effectively the more you understand and empathize with them. Do you do so?
While you aren’t trying to act like them, you are trying to work with their emotions. He shows what one person can do to understand and empathize with someone else. As a leader in business, sports, education, politics, or other context, you don’t have to and probably don’t have time to empathize with people you want to influence, but you can.
As the video says, people describe great actors as working hard. I didn’t understand how you could act hard until I took acting classes. Then I learned that with technique you can practice harder and dedicate yourself more. Same with music, sports, singing, dance, and other active, social, expressive, emotional, performance-based fields. The harder you work, when you have technique, the more freedom you discover and create to practice your craft. The less artifice you have, meaning the more genuine, authentic, and free you become.
Look at Heath Ledger’s dedication to the Joker:
Many of today’s leaders indicate. They don’t seem to pursue their personal passions, which make them seem inauthentic. We don’t want to follow people whose motivations and emotions we don’t understand. Can you say you know Hillary Clinton’s motivations and passions to become president? I can’t. I haven’t met anyone who can.
As best I can tell, she hasn’t done the work to open herself up and share her self and her passions with the public.
There’s nothing special about her. I could have picked most leaders today. There aren’t many we could describe as hard working or dedicated to their dream. They may work long hours, but not many commit with everything they have.
Our leaders today indicate for the reason amateur actors do: they haven’t trained in a way to get past their artifice. They are limited by their inhibitions and beliefs about leadership from mainstream representations, which are often dramatized to sell movie tickets, not to show effective leadership. They don’t know how to empathize with the people they want to lead.
Some leaders are authentic because they pursue what they care about deeply. Martin Luther King Junior cared about equality because its lack affected him personally. Racism humiliated him unfairly. It destroyed his life.
Do you see the same commitment from other people with authority? Do you think the CEO or Board Members of Monsanto cares about farmers or the people who eat their company’s grains? Do you think the CEO or Board of Nabisco or other engineered “food” product company cares about its customers beyond their ability to pay?
Leadership Step by Step
I created my course Leadership Step by Step and the book with the same title, as well as the course Entrepreneurship Step by Step and eventually a book with that title, do give people in these fields the equivalent of method acting training but for leadership. I call it Method Learning, which produces Method Leaders who practice Method Leadership.
I intend to create a transformation in leadership training in development from self-serving indicating and trickery to genuineness and authenticity based in commitment, practice, and rehearsal. I intend to create leaders with the skill, openness, commitment, passion, genuineness, and authenticity in our field that actors, musicians, dancers, and athletes show in theirs.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book