“Leadership is like Clint Eastwood in Easy Rider”

This was a quote that got my attention today at a briefing about the new Ofsted framework. The presenter, who was quoting someone else, went on to show Eastwood dressed as a cowboy looking all stern and pointing six-shooters. “Leadership is like all guns blazing…”


That’s not exactly my image of leadership, but more importantly it’s not my memory of Easy Riser, in which I distinctly remember Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding around on motorbikes trying to come to terms with hallucinogens, 60s America and rednecks who didn’t like men with long hair.


There was a third character in the film, and for a moment I wondered if that was Clint Eastwood, but a quick Google search reminded me that was Jack Nicholson.


There was no Clint Eastwood in Easy Rider.


I hope that’s not what the quoter meant – “Leadership is being absent, or mistaken for someone else.”


Or maybe something more complicated was intended – some kind of character juxtaposition. I have to admit I can never get away from Clint’s “Dirty Harry” character. So joining Fonda and Hopper (and for a short while Nicholson) on their ultimately doomed journey rides Eastwood, magnums in hand, demanding “Do you think you’re lucky, punk?” of every hostile situation they face. Try as I might it’s still not a helpful image of leadership…


Maybe the film that had been intended was actually ‘Pale Rider’, in which Clint Eastwood plays a ‘mysterious preacher’ who saves a town. Again, mystery and preaching aren’t the first things that I would associate with good leadership.


So I came to a conclusion that it was just a mistake, too obscure to get at what was being meant.


But then maybe leadership is all of the above – it’s an amazing journey with extreme highs and terrible lows where you do meet some people who are actually out to get you. Sometimes you have to go in all guns blazing, and sometimes you have to be almost absent to allow others to develop their own leadership skills. You have to be able to preach – to share your vision – and to show the strength to be able to defend your team. And maybe a sense of mystery helps too.


It’s amazing where an Ofsted briefing can take you…

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