Five practices of great leaders – Mad Max edition

A small-business owner has to be a leader and a manager. But what is the difference? A simple way to look at it is this. A manager manages complexity and day-to-day activity while a leader influences and inspires change in people and circumstances. As an SME owner, you have to do both.

Let me summarise five key practices:

  • A good leader models the way. They know what behaviour they want, they’re able to model it daily and they are able to explain it.
  • They are inspirational and they create a shared vision for what they’re looking to achieve with their team.
  • They enable and empower others. They create more leaders. They are connectors as opposed to climbers.
  • They challenge existing processes. They don’t just put up with the status quo or the norm. They see possibility not obstacles.
  • Five: They reward the heart. They reward those who are following them, those who believe in their values and their direction and their vision.

Those five really came to life for me just recently because this year is the 40th anniversary of Mad Max. George Miller and Byron Kennedy filmed the first movie on a very short shoe-string budget and ran it like a small business partnership.

They modelled the way, they used their own hard assets, their own vans, caravans, and cars in the movie. They were prepared to destroy those things they were so committed.

In terms of inspiring and creating a vision, the vision was bought into by the lead actors, a young Mel Gibson, a young Steve Bisley, and they explained the movie to them and they bought into it. Clint Eastwood once said that if you get the casting right, 75 per cent of the movie is done. Steve Bisley said that as he soon as he read the script he thought “I have to play the role of Goose”. Think about that in your organisation. Have you got the right people in the right roles and do they believe in your vision? Are they passionate along with you?

They also enabled and empowered others. They took advice, they took guidance. The crew themselves were motivated and excited to be working on this project even though a lot of them weren’t paid much money, sometimes not at all! Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the role of Toecutter, really took this to heart. He, a Royal Shakespeare Company-trained actor, had the whole gang of motorcycle riders literally ride from Sydney to Melbourne on their bikes to bond as part of this movie so it would feel very real when they came together. He came up with ideas and new lines to enhance the Toecutter character. He wasn’t paid anymore for doing that, he just wanted to bring his best to the role. Do your people do this for you?

They challenged the process; people had never filmed this movie like this beforehand. The lead cameraman, David Eggby, a keen motorcyclist, built his own crane for the cameras, put it on his own F100 truck and did some of the most amazing camera angles super low to the ground that had never been done before, and are used on movies to this day.

They rewarded the heart as well, of those who worked with them and gave all that effort. Think about the amount of Mad Max sequels that came after the first one. Mel Gibson starred in the next two and Hugh Keays-Byrne, 36 years later, was in Mad Max 4: Fury Road as Immortan Joe.

George Miller and Byron Kennedy put Mad Max 1 together by living the five principles and this became the start of a legacy.

Rob Hartnett, Independent Executive Director John Maxwell Team and Director, The Hartnett Group