Tom Reilly, a 30- year Hollywood industry veteran, wrote The Hollywood MBA: A Crash Course in Management from a Life in the Film Business because he couldn’t find a management or leadership book that fit his particular leadership situation. In the film industry, he might be working with alligators in the Everglades one day and camels in the Sahara desert on the next. These situations don’t fit so nicely into leadership books. When Reilly looked back over his career, however, he found that his leadership skills as a filmmaker were perfect for any leader facing an unpredictable environment.
What is The Hollywood MBA About?
Reilly believes that making a film can serve as an ideal lab for testing leadership under difficult conditions, the kind of situations that experts say business leaders will increasingly face in the future. Films are created under tight budgetary control (even if they run into the millions), exist under constantly changing conditions, and offer immediate opportunities for feedback. As an assistant director, one of the roles he worked in, Reilly was able to test out his leadership skills immediately while dealing with union contracts, child labor laws, animal labor laws, A-list celebrities and directors. If his leadership skills were weak or inefficient, he would know quickly.
What Reilly came to realize about leadership and management is that they can be two of the hardest aspects of business, no matter how much technical expertise you have. It’s one thing to teach an employee how to operate a computer. It’s another to get a group of employees to work together to operate their computers so the business can make money. Every moment as a leader involves constant decision making, scheduling, compensation, worker reinforcement, communication, etc. The Hollywood MBA helps leaders understand the principles driving those decisions.
Leadership and management skills, Reilly argues, are more than supplementary “soft skills”. They are absolutely essential to a company’s bottom line. It is the job of business leaders to set both the tone (formally and informally) and set a personal example of the company’s culture, the environment in which workers will spend most of their time. It is the job of management to handle the day-to-day decisions needed to keep the team afloat. Businesses need both skills to turn their resources into profits. The Hollywood MBA helps readers understand how good leaders and managers pursue their profession like a work of art.
Reilly is a filmmaking professional with over 30 years of experience behind the camera in various roles. He has worked for every major studio and network working on everything from feature films to TV pilots with some of Hollywood’s greats, including Barbara Streisand, Sean Connery and Keanu Reeves. Reilly also serves as the Distinguished Lecturer on Film at Brooklyn College and the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. He is also an author and a public speaker on leadership and management issues.
What Was Best About The Hollywood MBA?
The Hollywood MBA presents a more dynamic model of leadership at closer range than most leadership books. Most leadership books, consciously or not, assume a fixed model of leadership: Once a leader develops X, Y, Z, then the business will be perfect. This book, because of the environment Reilly faced in Hollywood, challenges that assumption. Leaders, the book would say, face daily challenges, not case studies. Because of this, they need a set of core principles to keep them focused on their goal while remaining flexible about how they reach it. This book provides those principles.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
The Hollywood MBA offers a lot of helpful advice for managers and leaders to deal with the day-to-day decisions that impact a business or organization. The book provides well-defined and engaging examples from the author’s own life that demonstrate how filmmaking can serve as a model for leadership. One particular area where this shines is the book’s discussion on diversity. While the author makes eloquent points, there isn’t a straightforward call to action for businesses. Having a more defined call to action might help those struggling to build more diverse teams.
Why Read The Hollywood MBA?
As The Hollywood MBA points out, a lot of leadership advice is provided on an abstract level. This advice is great, but it doesn’t give practical recommendations for the day-to-day leader who has to decide whether to cut someone’s hours to stay on budget or if they need to ask a team member to stay an extra hour to complete a critical project. The Hollywood MBA was written for those situations. Using examples from the chaotic and unpredictable world of Hollywood, Reilly demonstrates why the fundamentals of leadership and management are the same in every situation, It is the adaptation of those fundamentals that matters. Reilly’s book shows how leaders can adapt their fundamentals so they can have a stronger impact on a business’ profit margins.
This article, “The Hollywood MBA Helps You Lead Under Difficult Situations” was first published on Small Business Trends