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Doug Pederson's Rules of Leadership or How to be a Husky

- Huskies run because they want to run. -

I share with you Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s six points of leadership.

  1. Practice self-awareness in order to achieve emotional intelligence.

  2. Exercise empathy – put yourself in your team member’s shoes, look through their lens.

  3. Create a culture of transparency – stay visible and grow trusted by your team.

  4. Invest time in the relationships you have with your team members and give freedom for relationships to grow between them.

  5. Never allow adversity to get you and your team down – change the narrative to see challenges as opportunities.

  6. Provide a purpose higher than self. Give your team the opportunity to align with something mission-driven, it will elevate them.

As future practitioners you we be faced with being led by someone and maybe you will lead a team. You seldom work alone in our profession and you need to build a great deal of trust. Please take Pederson’s six points to heart as both the leader and the follower.

1. Self-Awareness: Don’t let your emotions bring you down. Managing yourself is a key element of success. You have a task, don’t wait to be told, do it! Emotional Intelligence is being able to manage, be aware, and have relationships in your group that lead to cohesion and success. Positive outlooks and self-control helps everyone. Stop sulking, get off your phone, and be a part of this team.

What you can learn from a husky: What’s my job? Pull damn it!

Lead dogs motivate and focus on the destination. If the team doesn’t pull, the lead dog fails.You can’t just bark and expect people to follow, they need to WANT to follow. As a follower, don’t think the rest of the team is going to wait for you. A sled dog team can only go as fast as the slowest dog. If you are the slowest dog, you will quickly find yourself in a snow bank, left behind to find your way home. Manage yourself and be aware of your own weaknesses and build your strengths to help the team.

Don’t be a “snow dipper.” A “snow dipper” is a dog that licks the snow while running. It slows down the entire team.Yeah, your thirsty, so is the rest of your team. Don’t penalize the team because of your quirks. Be aware of yourself and make sure you minimize bad habits, like “snow dipping.”

2. Empathy: This is hard. I’ll be the first to admit, I lack empathy in the middle of a production. I turn into that rabid lead dog that doesn’t understand why no one else is pulling. There is a grey area of when to push people and when to hold back. No matter how much experience you have it seems as if the balance between barking orders and inspiring people is difficult. I’ve made friends and I’ve made enemies because of my empathetic ways. Sometimes you will be barked at and it will feel really bad, but put yourself in the leader’s shoes. The leader is motivating the entire team, not just you. You may get caught in the cross fire of inspiration. Rainbows inspire some people, while others are inspired by the sound of thunder. Bagpipes inspire me and they don’t sound pleasant for many people. The lesson: learn what inspires your team and they will be eager to pull your sled. Contrary to myth, huskies don’t pull a sled unless they respect the musher. Whips don’t work.

3. Create a culture of transparency: Lies, whispers and secrets are like ticking time bombs. Eventually, they will go off in your face and your team will be disrupted, the production will falter, and you will fail as a leader. Be transparent and people will respect the fact you hide nothing of yourself and in turn will be more open when they are concerned about making a mistake. The classmate that doesn’t tell you the microphone doesn’t work because they are afraid to admit they don’t know what they are doing will tank your production. If you, as a leader, can show that you can admit mistakes you will gain respect. Maybe that classmate will admit they don’t know something and your production won’t tank. Your transparency will show the final product is more important than your ego. There is nothing worse than working for someone who thinks they do no wrong. Trust me, it is hard not to be protective of your skills. I’ve been guilty of being a pompous jerk and denied a blatant error. It is tough to admit to others you said or did something wrong. A good leader says, “I’m sorry” and “I don’t know.” A good leader doesn’t act differently with different members of his crew. Love me or hate me, this is who I am and this is how I lead. I will get off my high horse and help you, especially if my mistake caused you a problem. The team and the production are more important than myself. Huskies can’t hide. Balto is Balto.

4. Invest time in relationships: YES!!! This is the most important lesson you can take from Doug Pedersen. It is the time before and after productions where you make your reputation and solidify your career. If you don’t talk to your colleagues outside of work you will never have good team chemistry. Seriously. If I know you are a good dude and you scream at me during a production, I know it’s not about me, it’s about the production. I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t sit and chat with you about your life, football, politics, or whatever. You need to know who is on your team and they need to know YOU! I would rather have a team of people I could hang out with than a team of experts who could care less about each other. I can build a team with people who spend time with each other. In your productions, you will spend hours, days, weeks and sometimes careers with people. Don’t push people aside because they don’t believe in your professional ideologies or that they come from some other discipline. Make friends. Play in the sand box together, it’s more fun. The best memories of my career are the times I spent with the crews after our productions. We became fast friends and our work improved because we had a common bond. When you get on a crew be prepared to stay late to help put away gear, get a drink, hang out, and bond with your team. Your career will move forward if you have friends. Now that my professional career is over, I regret that I didn’t spend more time enjoying being with the team, not being so uptight. Huskies hang together in a pack and as a pack they work best.

5. Never allow adversity to get you and your team down:This is the hardest thing to do.It is easy to give up.It is easy to get into a funk, blame others, and give up.I would do it all the time.Then, I found out it didn’t get the job done, it made me miserable and the team turned against me.Find solutions. Your job as a leader is to find solutions to the problems that pop up.That’s your job!If you act like it is a surprise that something isn’t going as planned then you need to be replaced as the lead dog.A good lead dog looks ahead and sees what lies ahead, knowing that something could happen unexpectedly and then reacts to keep the sled moving.Something will happen you didn’t expect!The dogs behind you can’t see what you see (usually a sled dog is looking at the backside of his or her partner for the entire trip).You have the vision and you know the way.Don’t blame others.Fix it.If the adversity stops you, take a moment, include the team in the discussion, and move on.Giving up is not an option for most productions.We got to get it done!We can’t go over budget!This is our last day!Find alternatives and think on your feet.If you are not the leader, don’t be a distractor and be negative.Have a positive outlook and give positive suggestions.Negative people will find themselves in a snow bank!

6. Provide a purpose higher than self: This is the Holy Grail. A video production crew can strive for accolades or you can search for fame. But, it is a hollow victory. All I have to say to you is, “Who is Steve Guttenberg (actor)” - 1980s A-lister. Or, “Who is Michael Cimino (director)” - won the Oscar for Best Director in 1979. Yeah, fame is fleeting. Most of us will never come close to national recognition. You will be a part of the industry and your reputation will be what you make of it with your peers. Your legacy will be created by how you treated others and how you worked. “Worked” is a key word. What did you bring to the job each day? What special quality did you have that everyone wants in his or her production? In my professional career there are people I worked with that I will never forget because of their work ethic and the quality of their craft. Ned Tate (director), Al Wohl (director), Dennis Goulden (producer/writer), Pat Kilkenney (executive producer), Joe Wozniak (photographer), Wes Pratt (cinematographer), Steve Hayes (photographer), Chris Inman (gaffer), Noel Dannemiller (audio), Bryan Frania (photographer), Jack Schmucki (engineer), and more, many more. These guys have or had a higher purpose and that enhanced the project or production or whatever they were working on at the time. The quality of the production always came first, not them. They supplied unique qualities, expertise that we all admired and appreciated. I wanted to work with each one of them because they made my work better.

As a professor, I’m driven to make you better. I can’t force you to pull the sled. But if you are willing to lean into the harness, give it all you got and work well with others, I can guarantee you that you will get where you want to go. MUSH!

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