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Chapter 5: The Vision Thing: How To Think About Purpose, Values And The Future

Leadership is about achieving great results through others. How do you create a framework that empowers and enables employees to bring their own creativity and commitment to achieving your goals? What makes a good purpose or vision statement, and which ones are rubbish? Here are the seven essential ingredients of a powerful vision framework.

How do you take the imagination of a writer, and turn it into a movie that delivers box office success? Making a movie is risky and imperfect, and can be hugely expensive. What is the magic element great directors bring to moviemaking that enables success? Are there any similarities between the art of directing a movie and leadership in business?

Michael Apted is a prolific British film director, best known for movies such as the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, the fantasy adventure The Chronicles of Narnia: The voyage of the dawn treader and the anti-poaching film Gorillas in the Mist. He is most proud of his film Amazing Grace, the story of English politician William Wilberforce and his battle to end the British transatlantic slave trade.

Michael has been President of the Directors Guild of America, has worked in television and has produced many highly acclaimed documentaries, including The Official Film of the 2006 FIFA World Cup (football). In a recent interview, I asked him how he managed to inspire a diverse crew of technicians, cameramen, set designers, support staff, money providers, studio bosses, make-up artists and – of course – actors, to create movie magic.

‘It’s the vision thing,’ he said:

‘It’s so important that you have a vision for the film, a vision that you have to fiercely protect, but also use to encourage a collaboration festival where people can build on it.

The most precious thing you have as a director of a film is the commitment, enthusiasm and creativity of all the people involved in your endeavour. You have to encourage their energy by encouraging their participation. You have to say that you know what you want to achieve but you don’t know how to do it: can they help you? You have to help them to see what you see, but then let them advise you on how to achieve it. You have to create a great atmosphere that engages people and allows them to contribute to your vision, while never taking your eyes off the prize.’

Michael talked of the paradoxes of leading a film project – the need for both flexibility and firmness, the need to absorb other people’s ideas while not compromising your vision, and the need to deal with 1,000 details but one big picture. Sounds familiar!

‘When you make a movie you are dealing with three different creative arenas. These are the writers, the actors and the editors. They all bring very different skills and talents to the project and all require different handling. As you move through the writing, the filming and the editing, your project is a living thing and it changes all the time, but you just cannot succumb to the movement or get lost in the detail. You have to stay true to your vision and keep it in mind all the time, ensuring that everybody else has the same shared meaning. That’s the only way you can bring such a diversity of talent together to create something amazing.’

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