A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood…Won’t You Be My Leader?

The movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is positively impacting moviegoers everywhere. It’s as much an entertaining movie as an educational experience filled with incredible teaching moments.

Acceptance. Understanding. A belief and behavior system where kindness triumphs. A basis for empathy and decency learned from America’s most beloved neighbor…Fred Rogers (as played by Tom Hanks).

Fred Rogers was the creator, showrunner, and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood which ran from 1968 to 2001. The show was critically acclaimed for focusing on children’s emotional and physical concerns such as death and divorce or sibling rivalry and school enrollment.

The lessons learned in the movie and from Mr. Rogers over the years are timeless. Learn to release anger constructively. Interact with others from the heart, your heart…filled with compassion and forgiveness. Be a guardian angel with a calming presence. The lessons extend beyond the neighborhood. They apply at home, at work, and generally, for life and living. They apply to leadership.

The following list represents 10 powerful leadership lessons we can derive from the movie and Mr. Rogers’ life. He lived by his values and demonstrated his best in everything he did. Read the list slowly, thoughtfully. With each one, ask yourself, “How do I do that?” or “How well do I do that?” or “How could I do that better?”

Ten Powerful Leadership Lessons

  1. Be accessible to and have a genuine interest in others for greater connection.
  2. Be an adept listener and an honest, respectful communicator.
  3. Choose your words carefully and monitor your tone of voice.
  4. Intentionally impact others by valuing them.
  5. Share your gift of knowledge and capability to elevate those around you.
  6. Demonstrate courage and uphold that which you value most.
  7. Make sense of the world by addressing problems, answering questions, and speaking the truth.
  8. Feel passion for what you do and all that you believe in.
  9. Have clarity of your mission; and live by it.
  10. Always leave something of value from which others can grow.

Now, do two things:

  1. Pick one item from the list that you do well and make a commitment to share your gift with others by teaching, modeling, explaining, or simply, fully and consistently exhibiting your gift.
  2. Pick one item from the list that you could do better and make a commitment to improve.

However, there’s a key to both action steps. You must pinpoint the behaviors that work or don’t work for you. It’s not enough to just say “I do this well”. You must understand exactly what behaviors are associated with your talents and what you do well or what behaviors are associated with areas for improvement and what you could do better. Doing this enables you to reinforce the good behavior or change less productive behaviors for yourself. It also enables you to help others in the same way.

Remember, the lessons are not for us to keep for ourselves. Lessons are for us to learn; and then share with another, IF and WHEN one is open to receiving the lesson. Give the gift of learning. Enable others to observe what you do. Demonstrate what you love most and what you do best. It will:

  1. Empower others to do the same.
  2. Help others modify the way they do something.
  3. Give others permission to embrace their own strengths.

Won’t You Be My Leader?

As a leader, you can influence the workplace to make every day “a most beautiful day at work”. You may not achieve the universal acclaim of Mr. Rogers, but you can at least be your team’s most beloved leader. Or maybe even the organization’s most beloved leader. Or maybe, even America’s Most Beloved Leader.

Leaders leave an impact on every person they encounter. Make certain your impact is what you want it to be. You may be surprised how far-reaching your own impact will go. It’s great confirmation when someone asks, “Won’t you be my leader?”

The 2019 movie, inspired by the 1998 article “Can You Say…Hero?” by Tom Junod and published by Esquire, is directed by Marielle Heller and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. It’s a worthwhile investment of your time for both the entertainment value and the unexpected educational benefit you can derive from it. Take your friends, take your family. Take your team. It might be the best and most unique team building exercise you’ve ever done as a leader.