What can the Oscars tell us about leadership

oscarsI personally don’t watch the Oscars.

I am not really in to pop culture, I don’t see too many current movies, and I don’t find award shows entertaining except for the opening, which I can see on Youtube the following day.

Well the 2017 Oscars punished me for my antisocial behavior!

In what will be known as the largest blunder in Oscar history, the award for Best Picture was mistakenly awarded to La-La-Land instead of the actual winner Moonlight.  Through a series of unfortunate events, the wrong envelope declaring the winner ended up in the hands of Warren Beatty who seemed to know something was amiss.  It appeared to be obvious that the card in his hand was a copy for the Best Actress category awarded earlier in the night.  As the uneasiness washed over Beatty’s face he didn’t seem sure what to do. He froze like a deer in the headlights, but managed to hand the erroneous card over to his co-presenter Faye Dunaway who did not seem to recognize anything wrong.  She saw the words La-La-Land on a card, and drew upon her years of training to read what was in front of her. History was made.

Beatty was responsible for two failures in my opinion. One- he seemed to have recognized a problem and did not do anything to rectify it.  Two- once he saw that a problem existed he pawned it off to his co-presenter in an attempt to distance himself from it. This is called “throwing someone under the bus” where I am from.  Both actions are failures in leadership.

The wrong “winners” arrived on stage and were deep into an acceptance speech when a flurry of activity concluded with the announcement that indeed the wrong winner had been announced.  The correct card was shown as evidence and the Moonlight folks had the highlight of their careers ruined because no one had the intelligence or fortitude to simply say, “hey I think this may be the wrong card”.

The Oscars fiasco did not end in injury or death.  At its worst it was an embarrassing black eye to the institution and PricewaterhouseCoopers who is responsible for the envelopes.

The ability to identify and communicate known problems takes courage.  Placing your own career at risk in order to right a potential wrong is not an easy thing to do.  The ability to tackle a problem head on instead of hoping that someone else will solve it are part of the foundation of leadership.  Beatty’s avoidance of the situation will cause distrust in him for some time.  He wrongly assumed pushing the problem away from him would lessen the impact to him when in truth, it magnified his role in the whole ordeal.

When something doesn’t look right have the courage to take a breath and verify.  The slight embarrassment in the moment will outweigh the landslide that follows if you ignore it.



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