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Dickman on Leadership: Seven Samurai & Overcoming Blind Spots

Welcome to a new episode of my video series “Dickman on Leadership” where I explore different aspects of leadership through classic film. As a narrative and leadership coach, I believe film holds a mirror up to society and human behavior. In this series, I’ll share some of my favorite examples of both excellent and poor leadership. I hope you enjoy and learn something new! 

Using a clip from Seven Samurai, I show just how deadly misperception can be and the importance of seeing yourself clearly in high stakes situations. 

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A Little More Gary Cooper, A Little Less Daffy Duck

My client Jim was in trouble because he couldnʼt get a job. Jim was a skillful consultant with a Ph.D. in psychology, and had been working in the financial world as a highly paid advisor to one specific firm for almost 10 years. This one client generated more than 90% of his income. He loved his job, and the firm rewarded his efforts with a steadystream of work.

Until the board of directors replaced the firmʼs CEO. The new CEO wanted “a clean slate” — and Jim lost his job.

Jim began scrambling to find new consulting gigs. He was getting interviews but no callbacks, and no offers. He hired me to help him figure out what was going wrong.

When I conducted a mock interview, I noticed one damaging behavior: Jim could not stop talking. Even after something as simple and innocuous as “Why do you want this job?” or “Tell me about yourself,” the torrent began. Jimʼs speech was so rapid fire, itʼs amazing he was able to breathe!

Finally, I gently cut him off and asked if he remembered what my original question had been. He had no memory of why he was talking.

Jim is not alone in this behavior. Leaders are rewarded for taking charge and speaking up. This starts in school, which can seem like a game of “Jeopardy!”—the kid who hits the buzzer first, wins the prize. What child gets rewarded for thinking more slowly, deliberating or reflecting? And as we grow up, things only get more competitive. Add to this conditioning the additional stress of really wanting to impress the interviewer, and itʼs easy to see why listening is a dying art.

I asked Jim to rent a few westerns made in the 40ʼs and 50ʼs. I suggested “High Noon” In this film Gary Cooper, the local sheriff is confronted with the knowledge that a gang of killers will be coming to his town in a few days. The train will arrive at noon. Cooper tries to recruit others in the town to help him stand up to the bad guys, but everyone turns him down, and he is forced to face the murderous gang alone. Cooperʼs dialogue is sparse, direct and to the point. His ability to hold the silence makes him powerful. We know that the other characters are weak because they cannot look him in the eye or stop stammering excuses. There is no question he is the hero and the power of his silence proves it.

Lessons to practice when meeting new people, especially in high-stakes situations:

• Become aware of any stress, anxiety, or pressure to impress well before the meeting takes place. • At the meeting, really listen to the questions being asked. Hold them in your mind for a few seconds before responding. • If you arenʼt clear on a question, ask for clarification before you answer. • If you find yourself talking a lot, ask yourself “Why am I talking?”

[These tips should help you avoid this common communication error, and really connect. The next interview Jim had, he talked less, said more—and got the job!]

Or something like this.

Bob has scheduled his next workshop for September 22. Sign up now and take advantage of the early bird discount. And don't miss out, we had to turn people away from the last workshop! Get all the info here: Finding Your Business Story



You probably will never see this....

I see it everywhere—in clients, friends, even myself: a feeling of being overwhelmed by information. Email, social media, phone calls, coming at them 24 hours a day, every day. “Did you get my email?” “Who knows? I get 300 of them a day.”

One client sums it up like this: “I’m being crushed by all this information. It’s gotten so bad that in the morning I dread turning on my computer and seeing how many new messages I’ve gotten. I don’t need any more information. What I need is meaning, context—something that helps me make sense of my world.”

What helps create more meaning? A well-crafted story, grounded in experience. Remember that stories don’t have to be long. Stories can do more than entertain; they inform, educate and inspire. The right story at the right time can change your world for the better. They can help you stand out in our era of too much information.

Come and practice telling your business story at my next workshop on June 30th. Only 2 slots left before the workshop is filled. Grab them here. (



Find Your Story - Early Bird Tickets

There are only two weeks left to get your early bird discount. Sign up now! Recently Lynda Resnick, the CEO of a two billion dollar conglomerate whose brands include Fiji Water, Teleflora, and POM Wonderful, stated the principle behind her success. “I donʼt do companies that donʼt have a story. If they donʼt have a story, they donʼt have a business.”

Sign up here:

In this four hour, interactive workshop you will learn to tell a story which…

  • …makes others care about whatʼs important to you;
  • …differentiates yourself from your competition;
  • …speaks to the challenges that face your clients, manager or direct reports;
  • …transforms trying to convince people into having them see new possibilities;
  • …enrolls new clients and co-workers.

Past participants in this workshop have included attorneys, accountants, coaches, managers, engineers, entertainment executives, officers of non-profits, entrepreneurs, and even actual rocket scientists. It can help you, too!