Leadership lessons from Bluto (John Belushi) in Animal House, circa 1978…
Leadership lessons from Bluto (John Belushi), circa 1978…
Bluto: Hey! What’s all this laying around s***?
Stork: What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron? We’re all expelled. There’s nothing to fight for anymore.
D-Day: [to Bluto] Let it go. War’s over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
Bluto: What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Otter: [to Boon] Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.
Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…
[thinks hard of something to say]
Bluto: The tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!
[Bluto runs out, alone…]
Other than not being in the script, why didn’t anyone follow Bluto at this point?
Simple. He didn’t outline the mission, or why it was important. He didn’t engage the early adopters, the risk takers.
He didn’t capture the imagination of any thought leaders in the group. Sure, he conveyed some intense emotion. He may have even motivated a few of his team members to think a bit, and ignore Stork and D-Day’s surrender. But, take action? Not a chance.
[Bluto returns, looking frustrated…]
Bluto: What the f*** happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…
Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!
Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.
[Boon and D-Day stand up]
Boon: Let’s do it.
Bluto: [shouting] “Let’s do it”!
[all of the Deltas stand up and run out with Bluto]
How did Bluto turn the tide? He challenged the team to face their fears. He outlined the (crazy) mission, and why it mattered.
Most important…he ignited a thought leader in the group. Otter took emotional ownership of the crazy mission and vision that Bluto (sort of) outlined. Otter gave it clarity, and made it safe for everyone to support.
Once Otter (and D-Day and Boon) stand in support of Bluto’s crazy idea, the rest of the team unites. The exact plan isn’t clear, but the thought leaders create the wave of support it needs to launch. The rest is detail.
All Bluto has to do is add: “We’re just the guys to do it.”
He doesn’t ask, “Who’s with me?” when he leads the team out the second time. He already knows, and so does his team.
Who are the thought leaders in your organization?
How do you influence them? How do they influence you?
What are you doing to harness their power?
Who’s with you? That’s up to you and your thought leaders.