Bonnie Hammer And The Power of Seeing The Future

“Bonnie Hammer is tiny. She stands before the Universal Cable Production Studios team, forty-some people who together have created some of the most successful cable television shows of the past few years—Warehouse 13, Royal Pains, and Psych among them—and those in back rows have to sit up straight to see her. This is the first time in the studio’s brief history that the whole group has come together to focus on their vision for the studio’s future and plan how to get there.

Bonnie is the chairman of NBCU Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. She’s had huge success building her portfolio of businesses over the past decade, so folks in the room respect her and would be ready to listen even if she wasn’t inspiring. But she is. She may be little, but her energy is infectious, and she builds a picture of how the media industry is changing and the role this group could play; of how the studio can succeed both financially and creatively in this new world. She talks about how their collaboration with each other and with all their partners both inside and outside the company will support them in creating great content for people to enjoy not only on TV but online, on their phones, in games, and on platforms and in formats yet to be invented. She describes a future of risk taking rewarded, of working hard, having fun, being pioneers.

Everyone in the room is engaged; there are smiles and nods. Watching from the side of the room, I see that at this moment, they are fully accepting her as their leader.

Bonnie is far-sighted…Over the years as I’ve worked with her and her teams, I’ve watched her again and again as she pulls people’s eyes up from the ground and turns them toward the far horizon, describing a possible future and inviting people to go there with her. She shares her vision of the future in a compelling and inclusive way.”

– From Chapter 3 of Leading So People Will Follow

When I started writing this book, almost three years ago, I immediately thought of including Bonnie.  The first time she and I met, I had come to speak with her about an executive on her team I was going to be coaching.  Within a few minutes, she impressed me as being both unpretentious and powerful – an unusual and appealing combination. As I got to know her, I felt it even more strongly.  And I also saw other great balances in her: she is both tough and kind; logical and intuitive; and – especially this – operational and far-sighted.  I could have chosen Bonnie as an examplar for a number of the Leading attributes, but I picked far-sighted because she’s such an excellent model of the power of having and sharing a clear vision.

I especially enjoy watching her as she consistently brings her team’s focus back to the big picture: Why are we doing this, and how does it serve or not serve our overall vision and our key goals?  She always does it in a respectful way – there’s no “I’m far-sighted and you’re not” sting to it – but it puts possible actions in the proper context and reminds everyone to think and act strategically about how best to use their time, attention and resources.

It’s a great practice for anyone in a leadership position to emulate. And that’s why I’ve chosen the 12 leaders I’ve used as examples throughout Leading So People Will Follow. I thought that, in addition to clarifying the six Leading attributes and offering practical ideas for developing them, it would be useful to my readers have real-world models of the attributes in action.

Over the next six weeks, I’ll be writing blog posts about each of my exemplars in the order in which they appear in the book. It’s a way for me to introduce you to these wonderful folks, and also to give you a ‘sneak peek’ at the book’s content.

Next up, AMC Networks’ Josh Sapan…..

About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

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