If you are under 45 years of age, watch this video so you will know the basis for today’s blog.
If you are over 45 just click, watch, and smile.
Dear sir or madam, what I am asking may be difficult, but I beg of you to try. Avert your eyes from the brilliant acting you just witnessed. (Also, don’t pay attention to the sea lion that was in Commissioner Gordon’s chair ?!?) The thespianism is pure virtuoso, I know, but we must focus on the bigger picture–the reason for today’s blog.
The red phone that connects Batman and the Commissioner.
Reserved for the most dire situations when fiendish criminals such as Mr. Freeze–that diabolical Snowman–threatened Gotham City, the blinking red Bat phone represented our only hope.
I know what you are thinking . . . holy land line! How old is that show? One-hundred and twenty episodes of Batman aired on ABC from March 1966 until 1968. Just about every show featured the Commish hailing the caped Crusader via the Bat phone.
But do you know the origin of the Bat phone? The answer might surprise you. The idea for the red Bat phone came as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
In 1962, the Cold War between the US and Russia was at its zenith. A year earlier, President Kennedy authorized CIA trained Cuban refugees to invade the Bay of Pigs to overthrow Fidel Castro. No, the Bay of Pigs was not a marauding gang of Pork Producing Thugs that Batman faced during Season One. It was the here, on the southern shores of Cuba.
The failed coup emboldened Castro to cozy up to his Russian communist buddy Nikita Khrushchev. The Russians promised nuclear weapons for the island–a mere 90 miles from U.S. soil. Kennedy interpreted this as an act of aggression rather than self-defense and authorized a blockade of Cuba. However, Russia anticipated U.S. involvement and secretly placed nuclear missiles weeks before.
Kennedy found himself staring down the barrel of the proverbial gun. The only way Kennedy could resolve the problem was to talk to Khrushchev and that was possible only through intermediaries. These minions often tainted the information with their own biases. The result? The communication was full of distortions, misinformation, and posturing that often happens when politicians jockey for the upper hand.
But what could Kennedy do? He had no “Bat phone” to call Khrushchev . . . or did he? According to historians, nuclear war was avoided because of a direct line of communication between the two leaders. Khrushchev reached out to Kennedy via a direct line (it was actually a telegraph) and for three days, the leaders spoke exclusively and privately to each other. The channel became known as “the red phone.”
In the words of Chief O’Hara, “Saints preserve us!”
Side note: Batman (Adam West) recently confirmed what Christy and I suspected for some time. In real life the Commissioner hated Chief O’Hara’s fake Irish accent. The relationship on set between the two was professional, yet distrustful and icy–just like Kennedy and Khrushchev.
The red phone was critical during the Cuban missile crisis. Direct communication between two people is always preferred to maintain the clarity and integrity of information shared. History also tells us that Kennedy conveyed our country’s position in three areas: VALUES-GOALS-CULTURE. If you are a leader, take note.
#1. VALUES. When the weight of the world was on Kennedy, he turned to his values to determine direction. Values shine like a north start to leaders, showing the way forward. Without values, organizations are rudderless. To put it simply, values tell us “WHY” we do something and that is the first question that we all ask before embarking on a task: “Why am I doing this?”
When leaders not only know that answer, but model it, the organization is strengthened.
#2. GOALS. To continue the Batman theme, neither Kennedy or Khrushchev wanted this to be the final outcome:
In fact, look at this quote from President Kennedy during the crisis:
Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right- -not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.
Clear goals are critical to align your organization. Do your employees know what YOU are doing? Do they know what THEY are supposed to do? Knowing both increases productivity and achieves goals.
#3. CULTURE. Culture is how stuff gets done inside an organization. In 1962, Americans got stuff done through our might, our courage, and our will. Here’s Kennedy’s quote on what it meant to be an American with this threat looming:
The cost of freedom is always high–and Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.
As the old saying goes, if that doesn’t light your fire, your wood’s wet. Can your employees rally around your culture? Are they proud of the way you do things as a company? Your answer reveals a lot about your culture.
If you haven’t figured this out already, I like to have fun while talking about serious issues that face leaders. My mission is to increase the leader’s impact and to build relationships in the process. And because I like you, to end this blog I am giving you my favorite scene ever from Batman. Groovy.