A Lesson From 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'
The most effective leader isn’t the one with the trickiest schemes or most advanced ideas.
It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States, which means the holiday classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” will inevitably be on TV.
But beyond the absurdity of Del (John Candy) and Neal’s (Steve Martin) travels, one scene in the movie actually has a relevant lesson for us as leaders.
As the duo travels to St. Louis by Greyhound bus, Del asks if anyone wants to lead a song. Neal begins singing the Frank Sinatra classic “Three Coins in the Fountain.”
The silent passengers turn around and look at him in supreme confusion.
Del then interjects with The Flintstones theme, and the entire bus excitedly joins in as Neal shakes his head, perplexed.
As leaders, it’s critical that we consider our audience and cater our message and strategy to it. Being knowledgeable and forward-thinking is great, but if those we’re leading can’t process and act on our advanced ideas and visions, ultimately, what are we accomplishing?
Too often, we put in a sophisticated offense, but it’s just too tricky for our current personnel. We implement advanced business metrics, but employees have a tough time processing these. We teach with an adapted strategy that worked somewhere else, but our students just aren’t grasping the lessons the same way.
We must remember that the most effective leader isn’t the one with the trickiest schemes or most advanced ideas. It’s the one who can get his/her team to fully process the mission and buy-in.
That often means keeping it simple and actionable.
If we’re struggling to unite our teams or are not obtaining the results we’d hoped for, we might want to revert back to the basics and condense our strategies.
“Three Coins in the Fountain” is one of the great songs by one of the best singers of all time.
But it wasn’t appropriate for that particular audience, so it fell on deaf ears.
Occasionally, we might just want to stick to The Flintstones.