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How the Oscar-Nominated Movies Can Make You a Better Boss

A good movie always leaves you something to think about. A business owner shares her top takeaways from the Best Picture nominees.
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So, I have a confession to make. I am an entrepreneur and a mother, and my time is precious. I have very little free time-- but what free time I do have in the first two months of the year is spent watching every Oscar nominated film. I've seen every one this year, and it occurred to me that weaved throughout each of these films are some serious pearls of wisdom for entrepreneurs. As you sit down this weekend to watch the Oscars, see if you can pick up on any of these leadership themes from the Best Picture nominees:

American Hustle: Fake it til you make it.

Irving Rosenfeld and his partner Syndey Prosser are forced to work with the FBI when they are busted for running a total sham of a business. They get into a situation that is way outside their comfort zone, and are forced to work on the biggest, and scariest, con of their lives. By pushing themselves beyond their perceived limits, they discover an awful lot about themselves, and what they are truly capable of. Leaders can and should get comfortable being uncomfortable--and pushing forward even when it feels impossible.

Captain Phillips: Nice guys finish first.
When Captain Richard Phillips was commanding a cargo ship 145 miles off of the Somali coast, he was captured by pirates. Unlike the pirates, the Captain and his crew were unarmed and had only their negotiating skills to carry them through. Through his ability to connect with the lead pirate, Muse, Captain Phillips was able to protect his men and survive an incredibly challenging situation. He knew exactly how to handle this armed, unstable pirate--and it wasn't by playing hardball. He was simply kind, and thoughtful, while remaining strong and solid in his approach. He was nice, but not weak--a key lesson for all of us.

Dallas Buyers Club: Be solution-oriented.
When Ron Woodruff, a rodeo cowboy was diagnosed with HIV and given 30 days to live, he tried to begin the typical treatments of AZT, and found that the system and the drug was completely broken. He decides to cross the border into Mexico where he learns about alternative solutions to treat HIV, and begins smuggling them into the U.S. and starts the "Dallas Buyers Club," a membership club where HIV patients can get these alternative medications. His willingness to tackle this problem with an (albeit illegal) solution, lengthened the lives of thousands of HIV patients and changed the course of HIV treatment. Although he had a lot of mixed feelings about the gay community, many of whom were his customers, Ron worked to push past his own ignorance to solve a problem and had a successful, game-changing business as a result. As a leader, are you solving problems with your product or on your team? You should be.

Gravity: Remember the power of mentors.
When Dr. Ryan Stone, an engineer on her first shuttle trip to space, ends up having a freak accident on a routine spacewalk, she and astronaut Matt Kowalsky are left spiraling in space, tethered to each other. Matt spends the next hour telling her various lessons about life and space, and their connection is as deep as they come. When Matt and Ryan get separated, Ryan is forced to channel Matt's confidence and knowledge to help get her home. She brings back his words and takes from them what she needs to in order to survive. Many of us as leaders have met people who have said things that we took with us on our journeys. Remember and look for people whose words and actions can inspire you to great success.

Her: Human connection is important.
Theodore Twombley lives in LA in the not-too distant future. He becomes fascinated by a new advanced operating system--basically Siri on steroids. "Samantha," his OS, is so advanced that she feels like a real person. Their connection is deep, and as Samantha gets more and more advanced, it gets complicated. Watching Her was like a giant reminder that we are headed towards a time where technology can and will advance faster than we'd ever expect. Through all of this, it's more important than ever for leaders not to become isolated. We constantly use technology to make our time-pressed lives more efficient, but we must, to be good leaders, make time for people--our most important asset.

Nebraska: If you don't make time for family, you'll regret it.
Nebraska is the story of David and his drunken, elderly, disoriented father Woody. When Woody receives a letter stating that he won a million dollars in a mail-order sweepstakes, he is convinced it's not a hoax. His son David agrees to drive him from Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska. David essentially stops his life to go on this goose chase for his father, and along the way, repairs old, damaged relationships with his entire family. As leaders, we can't always stop everything we are doing to spend a week on a road trip with our most difficult and challenging family members, but it's important to ensure that our family relationships are a priority.

Philomena: Don't accept no for an answer.
Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, this film tells the story of Philomena, a woman who was forced to give her child up for adoption by the nunnery that took her in when she was a pregnant teenager. Philomena had tried to discover the whereabouts of her son, who she signed away to an abbey in Ireland, but based on the church doctrine, she was not entitled to any information about him. It was only after a journalist contacted her and encouraged her to push past the church's refusal to cooperate that Philomena learned the truth about what happened to her son. Because she learned to not accept the first "no" that she got, she was able to achieve her goal and find peace. Leaders need incredible resilience, and they must push forward even when faced with challenges.

The Wolf of Wall Street: There are no shortcuts to success.
New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort built a giant empire off of selling penny stocks. A life filled with greed and corruption, Jordan was the ultimate "get rich quick" hustler--living a life of affluence filled with drugs and corruption. Jordan's story reminds us all as leaders that there truly are no shortcuts to success. True leaders don't cheat their way to the top, and the ones that do, have short-lived success.

12 Years a Slave: Even when the odds are stacked against you, always believe in yourself.
This true story follows the incredible tale of Solomon Northop, a free man who lived in the North in the 1800s. Abducted and sold into slavery, Solomon spent 12 years living as a slave in deplorable, unimaginable conditions. It seemed that Solomon would never return to his life as a free man--and yet, he never gave up hope and never stopped believing that he was free. Though none of us could imagine a life like Solomon's, we as leaders can face insurmountable odds. Haven't we all felt like it was totally hopeless at one point or another? We must remind ourselves that being a leader involves lots of ups and downs, and that it is only our ability to believe in ourselves and our strength to lead through difficult times that will carry us through.

When you're watching the Oscars this weekend, remember that there are leadership lessons to be learned from each and every film.

Which lesson resonates most with you? Who do you think will win the Best Picture prize this weekend?

IMAGE: Courtesy Company
Last updated: Feb 28, 2014

CARRIE KERPEN

Carrie Kerpen is the co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, which she grew from a husband-and-wife consulting firm into a global social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency. She led her team to more than $15 million in revenue and landed the agency on the Inc. 500 List in 2011 and 2012.




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