Updated: Jul 10, 2020
This week I was lucky enough to stumble across one of my favourite songs of all time that always gets me nostalgic and emotional and seems to touch my very soul with its sweetness, poignancy and possibility.
Yes it is Kermie at his best singing the Rainbow Connection.
Just take a moment to have a listen to this beautiful tune – it is like balm to the soul! Much needed in these times of lockdown.
Whilst on YouTube another video popped up which was an interview with the composer of the song, the great Paul Williams, about the story behind song. This interview led me to a blog written by Paul called “the Elegance of Kindness” which was written about what it was like to work with Muppet Creator Jim Henson.
Paul’s blog really resonated with me as it seems like the leadership traits of Jim are what we really need first and foremost in these strange times. I’d invite you to read Paul’s words and think about what leadership qualities you notice Jim had that would serve you well in our Corona-world. “The interviews are all pretty much the same with questions about what it’s like writing for felt creatures, having the big love song sung by a pig, the idea for Rainbow Connections and inevitably, ‘what was Jim Henson like?’
He was gentle. He was funny. He had remarkable patience and if you went to him with a really bad idea he had the ability to slide past it so gently you almost didn’t notice the rejection in his sweet, ‘Noooo, that might not work.’
He was accessible and friendly. Inventive and completely original I think he was a genius. I’ve said all these things about him and while they were true I think they failed to properly describe the man. Then it occurred to me. Jim possessed ‘the elegance of kindness’.
Jim Henson displayed ‘the elegance of kindness.’ It was framed by his actions, which never seemed hurried. His humor could be remarkably edgy considering his sweet affect! His demeanor seemed to say, ‘life is crazy, and things go wrong but in the end somehow they’ll work out. No need to worry. And of course, there’s nothing to be angry about.
The Dalai Lama has said that his religion is kindness. It’s a remarkable quality.
I have a favourite story about Jim. There was an initial meeting at my house in the Hollywood hills to discuss the film, the story of how the Muppets met and the songs that were needed. Walking Jim to his car I told him that Kenny and I would not throw any surprises at him. We’d let him hear the songs as we worked on them. He answered with a smile and then said “Oh, that’s all right Paul. I’m sure they’ll be wonderful. I’ll hear them in the studio when we record them.”
I’ve never once, before or since, experienced such freedom. In the world of filmmaking and the costs involved it’s unheard of. But, there in the street above tinsel town I was shown a level of trust that says more about Jim Henson than it does about Kenny Ascher and I.
Confident in the creative choices he’d made he was willing to step back, allow the process to unfold without excessive control and, energized by his caring and respect Kenny and I did our best work. His graciousness and the elegance of kindness he wore so well made knowing and working for Jim Henson a classic case of living with a master of gratitude and trust." There is so much to learn about leadership in this blog. Today as we all feel challenged in different ways, with many of our teams fractured and people working physically alone, as a leader how can you be a master of gratitude and trust? What difference would it make to you and your people if you were? Are you confident in your choices which gives you the freedom to step back, relinquish control and let your people do the things they are really good at, let them do their best work? How could you channel a bit more of Jim Henson so that your staff can compose a Rainbow Connection for your organisation or business? How would this transform your team? How could you also apply more gratitude and trust to yourself? What difference would this make to you and to those around you?