Leadership in the Movies:
The Wizard of Oz

Creating Winning Teams


When I was growing up, one of the classic movies broadcast during the Easter holiday was The Wizard of Oz staring Judy Garland. The 1939 movie tells the story of Dorothy following the yellow brick road with three companions and a dog to Emerald city to seek audience with the “wonderful wizard of Oz… Because of the wonderful things he does…’

In later years I have come to appreciate that the film contains some powerful leadership lessons in how to create collaborative and winning teams. Dorothy is a compassionate leader who brings the team together and inspires loyalty, commitment and greatness. Here´s how she does it…

She sees beyond individual shortcomings
Dorothy meets three companions along the way lacking in courage, heart and intellect, but she shows compassion and invites them to join the team. Her respect and non-judgemental belief in her companions helps build followship and commitment.

She articulates a clear common purpose and goal
Dorothy sets out the teams´ common purpose as each new member joins – to reach Emerald City and seek audience with the Wizard of Oz to help them achieve their individual goals. This common purpose helps focus and sustain them through adversity.

She celebrates diversity
Each of Dorothy´s companions bring unique qualities to the team; collectively, the team is able to overcome the forces of evil. She recognises that everyone has a part to play and champions the underdog, Toto, who shows the team the way and pulls back the curtain to reveal the wizard´s true identity.

She inspires greatness
Through her determined spirit and ongoing feedback and encouragement she transforms the team from insecurity to strength. She allows self-resourcefulness to flourish and encourages self-empowerment. These attributes enable the team to function effectively in her absence and achieve success.

She adapts to different situations
She quickly accepts and adapts to the changing conditions and new realities that unfold around her such as the house landing on the wicked witch of the east, her need to travel to Oz and rising to the challenge that the wizard sets her.

She sticks up for her team
She supports Toto and the team unconditionally. She reprimands the wizard for intimidating her companions and defends Toto.

Successful high-performing teams are action-oriented, collaborative, committed, resourceful, diverse, goal-driven and supportive. Such teams are not motivated by diplomas, medals and testimonials but by collective team success and opportunities for personal growth. A winning team does not happen overnight but requires a step-by-step approach and a leader who cultivates followship (epitomized in the townsfolks´ valedictory song “Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the Yellow Brick Road”). Dorothy´s personal odyssey along the yellow brick road provides terrific insight for any leader wishing to build such a collaborative winning team.

Ric Kelly PhD.