As a young girl, I grew up watching Roger Moore as James Bond. My parents had been Connery fans before him and continued watching 007 suave his way through trouble during the course of my upbringing.
For almost half a decade, that was the way of James Bond. Beautiful women with catchy names, campy innuendos, and action sequences that suspended belief. What more could you ask for?
When it was time to replace Pierce Brosnan in 2005, the expectation was that the next Bond would be an attractive brunette with the ability to deliver bad pickup lines with a raised eyebrow and a smirk.
Instead, we got Daniel Craig and the world as we know it imploded. A blonde? Never, in all the imaginings of Ian Fleming’s writings, was James – martini drinking, gadget-laden car driving, women seducing – Bond ever to be THAT of all things.
A decade later, we all have a different view of Daniel and 007. Following the Spectre release this month, I told my friends “James Bond has my day job and Daniel Craig is my hero.”
Well, I doubt I’ll become a gun-toting spy anytime soon, but as a leader, Daniel has accomplished three feats that I aspire to replicate. Might we all have his abilities.
1. Be the unexpected
The bar was high and expectations low that Daniel could fill the 007 shoes.
And then came Casino Royale. Do you remember the opening scene? The frog-like man flying around town, trying to escape James’ clutches? And James, in Indiana Jones-like fashion, getting battered and bruised along the way, but still going because that’s what a good agent does?
Suddenly, we did not just have a new Bond. We had a NEW BOND.
Daniel gave us less camp with more action and more realism. We still suspended belief, but this Bond gave us something the others lacked. Grit. This was no spit and polish Bond. He was every man, doing what few men could or would do.
With a new Bond came new awareness of what makes him tick. We understood how he became a “00”, why he keeps his heart locked away, and even how his favorite drink became a thing.
We also saw him as human and fallible. More likely to leap than look, the new Bond exuded confidence that he would figure things out along the way, even if it meant getting dirty and bloodied.
As leaders, it is in our humanity – our realness – that we have the best opportunity to connect with others. And in those connections, lead our teams successfully through whatever challenges may arise.
Getting out of our offices and onto the floor, letting others see what we’re made of, offers an opportunity to be a new type of leader.
2. Set a new bar
At the time, Casino Royale broke the record for 007 movies. Since then, Daniel’s Bond has continued to give us bigger and better installments, continuing to raise the bar for what 007 can be.
The discussion regarding his hair and height has long been put to rest. Instead, the story has changed to character development and interaction. To the meaning behind the man.
With each installment, instead of being satisfied with explosions and fight scenes, we’ve come to look for how the character grows and evolves from one story to the next. There are always cool cars and gadgets, but the films are now as much about the man as his technology.
This new Bond brings change, lifting him out of the 50’s and into present day. For example, the Mad Men approach to women is being left by the wayside, with trust and partnerships emerging to help Bond save the day.
Change is inevitable, in our heroes and our leaders. When leaders are assigned to a team, the expectation is that they will affect change. That the leader will move the team forward in some direction, versus continuing to manage what is.
With each new assignment, every leader has the ability to raise the bar of what’s possible for his or her manager, customers, peers and team. Each of us has the ability to blow the doors off their ideas of what’s possible, regardless of whatever expectations they have when we arrive.
3. Open the door to others
No matter anyone’s thoughts on Spectre, it represents a continuation of a very different Bond from what we’ve seen before, and the opportunity to continue raising the bar by introducing the unexpected.
Before the movie was released, there was already speculation regarding Daniel’s replacement. Maybe Idris Elba or Lucy Liu would fit the bill. Suddenly, changing the race or gender of Bond was being discussed by fans, when a decade ago his hair color and height were a big deal.
While neither Idris and Lucy are likely contenders is not the point. The fact that they are being discussed at all is.
Daniel Craig opened the door for a different kind of Bond. He broke the mold and proved that different can be successful. It’s not about a specific look – it’s about what a person brings to the role.
With Bond, fans had conscious bias – formed by books and prior movies – that set an expectation for what “good” should look like. Daniel has challenged us to be ourselves, and bring the best version to whatever role we play.
We all have a choice to try and “fit in” to some predefined mold of what defines success – or to break that mold. For every one of us that is willing to talk, look or act differently, we are opening the door for others to do the same. We can redefine what success looks like.
When it’s our turn to fill a role, we must look past our conscious and unconscious biases to resist filling the same molds again and again. Take a chance on someone that looks or sounds different, as there are many ways to get to the success we aspire to – and the unexpected person just might provide it.
Whether or not you are a fan of the James Bond franchise, Daniel Craig’s 007 has transformed decades of book and film history. Any leader would be proud of such an ability to overcome low expectations, set a new bar of what’s possible, and open doors to further change.
Are you a Bond fan? What other leadership traits does 007 inspire? Please share your thoughts in the comments.