The Tom Cruise Philosophy
The difference between leadership and domination, and how Monty Don's reminders are so much more profound than the philosophy above
I was reading the weekend papers in the glorious sunshine after a good few hours of weeding, repotting a Korean Rose (which isn’t a rose) and mixing manure into the flower beds after being reminded by Monty that rich soil is imperative for healthy plants. After all, if I want a healthy and productive garden, I need to invest in and nurture those who are struggling, and the roots for all. There’s a lesson right there.
An article in one of the supplement magazines caught my eye ‘My Bromance With Tom Cruise’ which was about the relationship between Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg. Since doing Mission Impossible together, they’ve apparently become buddies, and Simon Pegg gushes in a rather adorable way over how he still gets excited each time a text from Tom arrives. I guess it makes sense that even Tom Cruise has friends, we all need them, even those who think they don’t.
But Tom Cruise is one of those who seems a tad aloof in comparison to the rest of Hollywood these days. He is, after all, Tom Cruise but of all the movie stars alive today, he is perhaps the one who remains that little bit more intriguing. Why is that? We can stack up the likes of Judi Dench, George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep etc and there is a warmth to them all. Tom is different. He is all smiles and by all accounts loves the adoration of his fans, but there is an invisible veil that the others don’t have, one that maintains a distance and an air that is different to his peers.
He’s not the only person alive that has that air. I would hazard a guess that you have people in your life who are similar, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. They seem untouchable in some way, unreachable, possibly even disconnected.
There was a line in the four-page article that jarred with me. Simon said that the most important lesson Tom had taught him, was this:
‘The best thing he taught me is never to accept responsibility for a mistake …. he maintains his authority by never being to blame for anything’.
I’ve worked with a few people over the years, who don’t take responsibility, you know, the slopey-shouldered lot. They throw criticism and blame around in a way which seems to clamber for a sense of power and control. Maybe that’s why we’re not seeing any politicians take responsibility or apologise for the ever-growing list of things that have been broken and mismanaged on their watch in an effort to maintain an illusion of power and control. From those I’ve known over the years who live by this philosophy, there’s not a single one of them who doesn’t want to be top dog. But are they top dogs, or is it just in their own minds? There’s a difference between domination and leadership.
I met a guy called Geoff Watts a few years ago who is a certified Scrum Master. He looked like a rugby player, so I figured it was something to do with sport, until he explained more. Scrum is a method of coaching that specifically works within a corporate/organisational/group setting and focusses on leadership, a special type called ‘servant leadership’.
Traditionally, leadership has been focused on driving from the front, military style even. Servant leadership focuses, scrum style, on bringing up the rear and allowing an organization (this could be a business or a school or even a family unit) to thrive, by putting the needs of the people first. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Theresa are examples of servant leaders. The reality is that we do/will all make mistakes, unless you are the son of God and even then, Jesus also taught and modelled servant leadership.
The first pillar of Scrum is transparency and so if you’re leading by shirking responsibility when a mistake is made, that’s the first pillar down.
Saying all that, taking responsibility and being willing to apologise can be seen as a mark of strength, but at times a mark of weakness. It takes wisdom to know the difference. …and just for the sake of clarity in a society where so many take offence so easily, I am not talking about apologising for something that someone else has taken offence for. We need to own our offence.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand is an example of a transparent leader. She was widely praised for her strong and compassionate leadership as she steered the country not just through the pandemic, but also the terrorist attack in Christchurch, and when the Whakaari, volcano erupted. She won the last election with a landslide victory and if you look at her Instagram, there is a refreshing combination of normal, feet-on-the-ground type posts alongside those more politically focussed. There’s a transparency to her way that builds and maintains trust. It takes strength to be that honest, it also takes heart -this style of leader recognises that everyone matters and it would be good to see more of them in this world, not just on the global stage, everywhere.
So going back to an ethos of never accepting responsibility for a mistake, I’m not convinced there is wisdom in living by such an extreme philosophy that says ‘I never…’ to anything. We are only informed by what we have experienced and learned so far in life, which means we aren’t done learning yet. We can keep learning and growing if we allow ourselves to, right up until the end.
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but wisdom isn’t a given with age unless we remain open to being wrong, open to learn, and open to change. If we want to be people who make a change in this world, transparency is the place to start.
That’s it from me this week, I’m off to water the garden. I hope you get to enjoy some decent Vitamin D while you are out and about.
Thanks for reading and for supporting my thoughts and ramblings :)