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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Frances McDormand’s Oscars Speech Proved That Real Leaders Help Others Succeed

Frances McDormand at the 2018 Oscars
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The first thing you think about when you get promoted is probably how exciting it is to be recognized for your achievements, to get a higher title and maybe even a raise, and to gain power with a more senior role. But have you ever thought about using your new position to turn around and help other people?

Take Frances McDormand as an example. She was clearly on a mission as she approached the stage at the 2018 Oscars to accept the best actress award for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

“I’m hyperventilating a little bit, if I fall over pick me up because I’ve got some things to say,” she began rapidly, and the audience knew she wasn’t messing around.

She made a joke, did the regular thanking, and then proceeded to immediately put her position in the spotlight to good use.

She asked all the female nominees present in the room to stand with her. The camera panned to show glimpses of some of the remarkable women who got nods from the Academy this year, including Lady Bird writer and director Greta Gerwig and the film’s stars, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, as well as best supporting actress winner Allison Janney (I, Tonya).

“Okay, look around, everybody, look around, ladies and gentlemen,” she said, so delighted at her ploy to shift the attention to all the talented women in the room that she seemed unable to contain her energy. “We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she continued. “Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days—or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best—and we’ll tell you all about them.”

She then ended her speech with two more words: inclusion rider, which can be added to a contract to help make sure the cast and crew of a project are diverse.

In other words, McDormand used her speech not only to highlight the achievements of other female nominees, but also to encourage those who made it in the room to use their sway to help so many others who didn’t.

In just over two minutes, the actress artfully demonstrated a key trait of great leaders: They help set others up for success, remove obstacles from their paths, and inspire them not only to do great things, but also to continue to pay it forward.

While you probably won’t be handed a gold-plated statuette, a microphone, and an audience of millions when you get recognized or promoted in your own career, you will be in a position to help other people. So try to shift your focus outward and use your new power for good. Just channel Frances McDormand.