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Tandem Leaders Who Changed An Industry
March | 2012


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Courageous Leadership

TED Talks

Strengths Based Leadership Coaching

 
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Courageous Leadership

Tandem Leaders Who Changed An Industry

Most businesses leaders today scorn the idea of co-leadership but one team of business partners' forged new models for an entire industry. In the late 1940's when a young actress named Lucille Ball was struggling as a stage performer, her Cuban born husband, Desi Arnez urged her to try out for a CBS radio comedy called My Favorite Husband. The show was a winner and CBS wanted to see if they could translate it to television. In the negotiations, Lucy insisted that Desi play the role of her husband, something CBS executives were not keen to see happen. After taking the show on a successful Vaudeville type national tour, CBS relented and I Love Lucy was born.

Desi and Lucy's business acumen focused on their understanding of the medium of TV as well as a strong desire to do things their way. They opted to move production to Hollywood from New York City, where most of the TV work was being done. They insisted on shooting the show in film rather than kinescope, which was the production method of the time. When CBS told the couple that filming would cost too much, they negotiated a salary cut but retained full ownership rights to their program. Their decision to maintain ownership of their shows turned out to be their shrewdest business decision. In the following years, this innovation allowed DesiLu productions to make millions of dollars from a now staple of television viewing and revenue productions — reruns and syndication.

Desi also introduced a multiple camera setup that is still the standard for all situation comedies today. And no laugh track for them. They created a sound stage that would allow an audience to view their program live. Their new production company, DesiLu Productions initially rented space in Hollywood but soon used income from their early I Love Lucy films to purchase a major studio location for $4 million. The production company had a successful 15-year run producing such shows as Mission Impossible, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Star Trek along with Lucy's later TV shows.

Lucy and Desi were not just sharp business people but also influenced the social context of television. They approached the show with the idea of using "basic good taste" and avoided ethnic jokes. CBS executives were concerned that Desi's thick Cuban accent would not work well for American's in the early 1950s and of course there was the issue of an "interracial" marriage. But cultural phrases such as Ricky questioning her after one of her antics, "OK, Lucy splain" (instead of "explain") endeared them to TV audiences and made Desi a role model for Latin actors.

When the Eugene McCarthy House on Un-American Activities Committee considered investigating Lucy as a communist (she had registered as a communist to vote in 1936) Ricky told an "I Love Lucy" audience that the "Only thing red about Lucy is her hair and that isn't even real." No one other than J. Edgar Hoover stated that Lucille Ball was his favorite comedienne, so any "commie" investigations did not go very far.

But perhaps their most controversial actions took place around the birth of their children. When Lucy was pregnant during their 1st season, she was "allowed to show" but there was no mention of her pregnancy. During the second season, she was pregnant again with "little Ricky" and while the word pregnant was not allowed, she was able to be "expecting." When Lucy delivered her baby, the show's episode was titled, "Lucy goes to the Hospital." That episode received a 71.7% rating for viewership, topping the 67.7% rating Dwight Eisenhower received for his presidential inauguration the next morning.

Like many business couples, Lucy and Desi had their share of challenges. Marital infidelity and Arnez's alcoholism eventually led to their divorce in 1960 but they remained friends for the rest of their lives. As Desi wrote in him memoir "I Love Lucy was never just a title."

 

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TED Talks

Norwegian Roald Amundson left to discover the South Pole at about the same time as British explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Amundson arrived at the Pole first and returned with all his crew while Scott arrived 5 weeks later and tragically perished just 10 miles from their base camp.

In this non TED Talk Charlie Rose talks with Great By Choice author Jim Collins about the three key factors that led to Amundson's success and Scott's failure. At least one will surprise you.

 

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Strengths Based Leadership Coaching

Richard is completing his third full year of Leadership Pittsburgh's Executive and Professional Coaching program for LP's program participants.

Richard's program delivers a three session "executive coaching experience" for senior leaders uses a strengths-based model for helping these senior leaders maximize their professional and leadership strengths to effect significant change in their organizations. Here are some of the comments past participants have said:

"I have a keener sense of the vision of our organization and where we need to go to achieve our mission. It has helped me tremendously in our strategic planning process and in managing my direct reports"

"It was immeasurable to me. Senior leaders don't often have the opportunity to reflect on their strengths. We rose to the top and people assume that we have all of the answers about leadership and we don't. This program shows me that it is okay to be at the top and still get help."

If you would like to have Richard come to your organization and speak to your team about strengths-based leadership and how you can use this model that has served so many leaders effectively just send a note to [email protected]

 

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