Management Tips from 'Kelly's Heroes'

Navigating Through a World of Extremes

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
I'm a movie junkie; so using analogies from movies is a common experience for those who work with me. You are no luckier than they.

One of my favorite movies is "Kelly's Heroes," starring Clint Eastwood as Private Kelly. In the film, Donald Sutherland plays a beatnik tank commander, Sergeant Oddball, who constantly chides Gavin MacLeod's character, Moriarty, a tank mechanic who continually gives off "negative waves."

You see, Moriarty always looked at every situation from the negative side. What could go wrong, would. Most of the time Moriarty was right. Wrong happened to Kelly's heroes at every turn. But Sutherland's character didn't see it as bad luck, just a pause in the action -- an opportunity to take a break and catch some rays. The fact that an artillery bombardment was creeping closer and closer didn't dissuade him. Oddball just wasn't going to let bad times get him down.

I admit I'm more like Moriarty than I want to be. And I wish I could be more like Oddball and not let the sky falling bother me. But, in reality, the only reason Oddball or Moriarty could succeed was because of someone like Private Kelly to lead the merry band of opportunistic thieves. Kelly had steely focus on the goal of finding the Nazi's stash of gold. He didn't ignore the bombs like Oddball, or complain about them like Moriarty. He avoided them as he pushed forward. And in doing so, he led others to success.

Moriarty was too negative. Oddball was too -- well, odd. But Kelly was just right. And I know why.

He wanted that gold bad enough to drive through a battle zone and behind enemy lines to get it. He had a team following, but if they had decided not to go with him, he would have gone alone. He wanted that gold and nothing was going to stop him.

OK, so what's my analogy? Simply this. Times are bad and people get discouraged. Some stick their heads in the sand, others in the clouds. But true leaders push on even if no one wants to follow. True leaders don't like dangerous situations, but they don't give it too much thought. They don't have time. They're too busy getting to the gold.

If your leading your agency through the battle zone we now face, which of the three characters are you?

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