News just in: Peter Graves, the team leader in the original Mission: Impossible (1966-1973), has passed away last night, aged 83. Forget the diluted Tom Cruise remakes, Peter, along with Martin Landeau and Greg Morris were the real thing!
Peter and friends represented America’s model of leadership in the late 60s: carefully planned, hierarchical, focused on specialisms, highly scientific and using human ingenuity to compensate for any forthcomings in execution. Who can forget the smoking self-destructing instructions tape at the beginning of each episode? There was a constant Cold War sub-plot, showing America at its Manichean best, fighting not only the Red Menace but also Third World dictators, along with corrupt businessmen and US politicians… So what is left of this leadership model today? Certainty has gone out of the window along with centralised planning departments and the clear-cut shape of the Enemy has blurred a long time ago. Technology has become part of the fabric of doing business at the same time its role as a panacea for solving all problems has waned. Three themes key remain though:
- clarity of purpose,
- taking the time to think and plan, and
- assembling a complementary team.
But the series also had a secret ingredient that many business teams forget to pack in their bag today: optimism and resilience. It is because Peter’s team knew that it could not fail that it always had the ability to bounce back and quickly identify a Plan B when Plan A failed. And they also had great music! Repeat after me when thinking of him while watching the obituaries on TV tonight: Ta-Ta-Tatata…