The topic of leadership and leadership styles has been analyzed and re-analyzed over these past 50 years by some of the greatest minds in academia and business. Each gifted “analyst” has found it necessary to employ varying degrees of management and human relations theory heaped in with extraordinary real-life examples in order to identify and then extol the ideal leadership style and personality.
Mindful of the valuable contributions these insights have made to the never-ending expanse of leadership development, let me offer a more simple and equally intriguing model of leadership unknowingly created more than 65 years ago by the movie industry and commonly referred to as Tarzan and Jane.
The title roles played by Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan seemed to captivate nearly two generations with their jungle daring feats of diving and swimming, swinging from tree branch to tree branch on vines, consorting with wild beasts and doing in bad guys; all the while suggesting a strong yet unspoken personal relationship. Needless to say, Tarzan and Jane movies were immediate box office hits and entertained millions of moviegoers.
Now it would seem to make more sense to have this subject as a theme for an article on movie genres, but that would be ignoring a very important element not so readily noticed–the leadership styles of Tarzan and Jane.
The Tarzan Style
Tarzan was a physically gifted individual with extraordinary athletic capabilities that he applied to every situation he faced. He was certain he could out-muscle, out-swim, out-wrestle and out-run any would be foe. He wore his moniker of “King of the Jungle” well and proudly. Yet when faced with situations that required something other than utilizing his physical strength or presence, he was less than up to the task.
Are you a leader who relies on one element of your “being” to impose your leadership will? We often see people use their position power or their experience or their innate intelligence as their tried and true core leadership tool; never thinking about the need to hone other skills or competencies to maximize their overall leadership capabilities. As the old adage reminds us, if a hammer is the only tool in your toolbox, then everything looks like a nail. And as we well know, you can’t go too far with a hammer when a screwdriver is what is really needed.
The Jane Style
Jane, on the other hand, utilized a different approach. She found that using logic, reason and communication could overcome many of the issues being faced in the jungle, particularly those that could not be resolved by the Tarzan style. She also recognized that mental toughness could be a valuable as physical toughness and that input, cooperation and having a clear goal in mind could help circumvent many a distressing situation.
Are you a leader that seeks input, believes in cooperation, provides logic and rationale and communicates openly and frequently? When one understands that leadership is more than just knowing everything there is to know then great strides can be made. As Jane quickly realized, utilizing all of your resources while remaining mentally strong can serve a person well.
In truth, a leader today probably needs to be a hybrid of these two characters; a Tarza-Jane, if you will. Certainly physical toughness does have its place when and where used appropriately while there can be no discounting the value that logic, cooperation, communication and mental toughness bring to a leader’s arsenal of skills.
I urge you to take some time and look at those Tarzan and Jane movies again. You will not only be entertained, but you just may learn something about yourself in the process.