Being nice to people can have amazing results.
My granddaughter gave me one of my favorite Christmas presents this year, the book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes, who played Westley in the hilarious and great movie, The Princess Bride. First of all, it was the most fun read of the year. The stories are incredible. Andre the Giant's eating and drinking habits alone will have you reading passages aloud to anyone willing to listen. The battles with nerves on the part of people we consider great actors, who gave world class performances in this film, are just amazing. Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn, along with Cary, often worried about their abilities to portray such characters as we see in the film, and ended up giving some of the most loved and quoted scenes ever. Plus, what you'll learn about the rigors of fencing, the real sword fighting of the movie, and what it takes to overcome big physical challenges may be worth the price of the book alone.
Then, there are such extreme stories of failure and success: William Goldman, screen writer for Butch Cassidy and All the President's Men, created a fairy tale story for his kids, and couldn't get anyone to turn it into a movie. Great directors and actors tried. No studio would go for it. Finally, Rob Reiner discovered the screenplay and showed it to his mentor, my old friend Norman Lear, who enthusiastically agreed to finance it. It opened to modest ticket sales. But it went on to become one of the true pop classics that spans generations.
To me, the most important lessons in the book revolve around Reiner, and his approach to directing a group of highly talented people. Cary described Rob as the ideal leader. He found the right people, convinced them to be involved, and then nurtured and encouraged them every step of the way. The book could have been called "The Power of Nice," because that's what the story about the making of this movie shows. Rob's calm in the face of apparent disaster, enthusiasm for the process, gentle kindness with his actors, raucous laughter, cheerful encouragement, and respect for everyone created a climate where the cast and crew became a big extended family able to do great things.
And I think that can happen in any leadership challenge. When you're genuinely nice to people, you create a spirit of partnership that allows you to have fun storming almost any castle, to use the image provided to us by Billy Crystal's wild character in the film, Miracle Max.
True kindness to people can lead to some of the most astonishing miracles of fun, excellence, and creative joy that can be attained, in any endeavor.