On Risk and Reward
It’s tempting to want to play it safe, not change until you absolutely have to. Whether you’re a parent, a CEO, head of a division, or pastor, the conventional wisdom is clear: don’t fix what ain’t broke.
This approach to leadership is tested, reliable, and trustworthy. But it also has resulted in zero major breakthroughs, breathtaking discoveries, or major advances. Growth – significant and exciting growth – comes from taking a risk, daring to do things differently, mixing up the status quo and, quite frankly, ignoring the conventional wisdom.
Consider, for instance, the world of filmed musicals. From Oklahoma and The Sound of Music to Evita and Rent, the standard practice has been to have the singer (whether the actor or not) record a song in a sound studio well before the actual take and then lip-sync the song for the filming. And since no one was complaining, why risk a change?
Because the potential payoff of having the actors sing their parts amid their acting – and thereby be able to change and modulate their tone, emphasis, and emotion – offered the potential to add significantly to the emotional impact of the song. You see, actors have no particular idea of the emotion they will feel while filming the scene prior to acting in it. The sing the emotion of the song and then adapt their acting to their performance. But given that the other actors, the set, the experience of filming the story so far all shape the dynamic of the actual performance, imagine the potential of inviting the actors to perform their songs while filming the actual scene.
But also imagine the risk. It hadn’t, after all, been done before. And you’d have to have musicians who could adapt to the performances of the actors. And the sound might not be ideal. And if there are many takes to get it right it could be expensive. And….
That’s why conventional wisdom is the conventional wisdom – it seeks to minimize risk, but in doing so it also minimizes the opportunity for something novel and wonderful.
At least that’s what Tom Hooper, director of the new film adaptation of Les Miserables, believed. And belief is key, because you have to believe the potential reward is worth the risk. You have to believe, that is, in your vision. But you also have to believe in the people you are leading – your team, your division, your children, your congregation, whatever. You have believe they are capable of living into the vision you’ve cast. And you have to believe in yourself to lead them.
But when these things are in place – belief in your vision, belief in your people, and belief in yourself – amazing things can happen. And so Hooper trusted his team – actors, musicians, technicians, set construction crew, and all the rest – and the results are dramatic. Watch the extended preview of Les Mis below to listen in as the performers and director talk about the potential pitfalls and payoffs of performing their songs during the actual filming. And then take a moment to consider what new venture – entailed with its own risks and rewards – is beckoning to you.
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