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4 leadership lessons from Butch Cassidy

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

You’ve got vision, while the rest of the world wears bifocals. If that bit of swagger sums up your leadership style, you’ve got something in common with Butch Cassidy.

In the film version of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Sundance tells Butch to “just keep thinking because that’s what he’s good at.”

That’s not the only thing that defined Cassidy’s leadership. Here are some other techniques that could help you, just like Cassidy, keep the rest of the world one step behind.

1. Gather intel. When a posse pursues Cassidy and his sidekick, Cassidy takes steps to determine who’s in the posse. Knowing whom he’s dealing with helps him figure out what to do next, in the same way that auto giants GM and Ford buy one another’s cars to see how they work.

2. Constantly benchmark. As the posse continues to track Cassidy and Sun­­dance, even as they’re moving across a rocky outcrop, Cassidy realizes the talent of his competition. He makes a risky choice: He and Sundance will have to make a move that the posse can’t possibly follow; they jump over the cliff edge.

When Apple launched the iPad, the company made sure no posse could follow them by making their iPad software proprietary. Because they couldn’t follow, the competition did something different—leading to Google’s Android software.

3. Collect opinions, then decide. In one tricky situation, Cassidy realizes that to find a solution, he’ll need to know what a really good gunslinger would do. He knows Sundance is the better gunslinger, so he asks for Sundance’s opinion, then makes the decision about their course of action.

4. Take action, no matter how tough things are. Early in the film, Cassidy is challenged by an enormous guy who wants to take over leadership of the gang. Cassidy outsmarts him by first making conversation, then kicking him in a particularly vulnerable spot. The fight is over.

For a long time, these leadership techniques kept Butch at the top of his game. Eventually, of course, Butch Cassidy and Sundance found themselves in a no-win situation. But even then, they went out in a blaze of glory.

— Adapted from “Five Leadership Keys from Butch Cassidy,” Geoff Loftus, Forbes.

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