What the Wizard of Oz Can Teach You About Leadership

Have you heard that Warner Bros. has produced a 3D remastered version of The Wizard of Oz, marking the 75th anniversary of this classic film? Of course there had to be a leadership theory to coincide for The Fast Track, and we found just the thing…

However, to their credit, Craig Hickman, Tom Smith, and Roger Connors came up with their The Oz Principle nearly twenty years ago.  The theory and the book of the same name demonstrate how to overcome the Blame Game in your organization and help your people take ownership for their work.  By moving above the line and being accountable for their results, like Dorothy and her friends your employees can achieve whatever their hearts desire.

What is This Line They Speak Of?

In their work, Hickman, Smith and Connors establish the concept of a line below which many people live much of the time.  They possess an attitude of victimization and get stuck on a yellow brick road of sorts by blaming everyone else for their problems.  Instead of taking action to improve things themselves, they wait for a wizard-like someone to wave a magic wand.  That wizard-like someone is often the manager, who must then take on her employees’ responsibilities as well as her own.  In an effort to stop this harmful process, the authors advocate the following four-step process to personal accountability.

  • See It:  Recognize and acknowledge the full reality of a situation and respond to it effectively.

Just like the needs of the Cowardly Lion, this takes courage.

  • Own It: Accept full responsibility for one’s current experiences and realities as well as those of other people.

Just like the needs of the Tin Woodsman, it takes heart to take ownership of the problem rather than passing it onto someone else.

  • Solve It: Change those realities by finding and implementing solutions to problems (often solutions not previously considered) while avoiding the trap of dropping back below the line when obstacles present themselves.

Just like the needs of the Scarecrow seeking a brain, this step requires a new way of thinking and a high level of personal engagement.

  • Do It:  Summon the commitment and courage to follow through with the solutions identified, especially when there is great risk in doing so.

Just like the needs of Dorothy, where the stakes were highest, she had to put all four steps together to get the result she sought, getting back to Kansas. If you think about it, the solution was there all along, all she needed to do was click her heels together three times. How many of you wish sometimes that’s all it took?

As employees move through the steps and accountability strengthens throughout the organization, a shift occurs from the “tell me what to do,” mentality to the “here is what I am going to do, what do you think?” mentality.  Employees are empowered, more gets done, and the organization reaches greater productivity and profitability.

I especially love this company president’s description of the benefit of employing the Oz Principle:  “It means that everyone is working together so that we don’t drop the ball; but when it does get dropped, everyone dives for the ball to pick it up.”

If It’s Worth Anything, It Takes Effort

I should note that the authors do not think the journey to maximum accountability is easy, and there’s always a delicate balance between being accountable to oneself and being accountable to the organization.  But merely encouraging employees toward greater self-awareness and stopping the blame game in its tracks is a terrific step in the right direction.











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Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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