One of my favorite movies is Barry Levinson’s Tin Men. Made in 1987 about 1963, it’s the second in his trilogy about Baltimore (Diner and Avalon are the bookends) and it’s my favorite of the three, though all are terrific. Great cast, great music, great cars!
Given that it’s all about sales and integrity, there are dozens of business lessons (I’m sure that was exactly what Mr. Levinson had in mind) in this picture. One of my favorites comes as Tilley (played by Danny DeVito) and Sam (the inimitable Jackie Gayle) are driving around and Sam speaks of an epiphany he had:
Sam: You know when I saw ‘Bonanza’ the other day, something occurred to me.
Ernest Tilley: Eh?
Sam: Ya got these four guys living on the Ponderosa and ya never hear them say anything about wanting to get laid.
Ernest Tilley: Huh.
Sam: They don’t talk about broads – nothing. Ya never hear Little Joe say, “Hey, Hoss, I went to Virginia City and I saw a girl with the greatest ass I’ve ever seen in my life.” They just walk around the Ponderosa: “Yes, Pa, where’s Little Joe?” Nothin’ about broads. I don’t think I’m being too picky. But, if at least once, they talked about getting horny. I don’t care if you live on the Ponderosa or right here in Baltimore, guys talk about getting laid. I’m beginning to think that show doesn’t have too much realism.
What Sam is really talking about is the need to be authentic. Every business needs to resonate with its consumers. In Authentic Leadership, Bill George defined the concept as understanding your purpose, practicing solid values, leading with your heart, establishing connected relationships, and demonstrating self-discipline. In other words, not presenting a false corporate image or trying to emulate the leadership style or characteristics of others. I think of it as passing the BS-sniffer test that our readers, fans, consumers, or clients put us through.
Get Sam in your head – is your ranch real?