Ava DuVernay is Triumphant | ReThinking with Adam Grant Podcast Summary

Ava DuVernay is Triumphant | Free Podcast Summary

Ava DuVernay is Triumphant | ReThinking with Adam Grant

In this episode of ‘Re:Thinking with Adam Grant’, Ava DuVernay, the first Black woman director to win at Sundance and get nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, shares her journey from being a publicist to a successful filmmaker.

She discusses her leadership style, the importance of teamwork, and the lessons she learned from studying Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and career while making the movie Selma.

The Value of a ‘Side Hustle’

DuVernay advocates for the idea of a ‘side hustle’ before fully committing to a new career path.

This approach allows individuals to cultivate best practices, learn what works and what doesn’t, and refine their dreams before making them their main job.

It reduces the pressure on the dream and allows it to blossom into something else.

Leadership Lessons from ‘Selma’

DuVernay’s film ‘Selma’ is used to teach leadership at Wharton.

The film demonstrates that leadership is a skill set that can be learned and developed, rather than a natural talent.

It also highlights the importance of preparation and improvisation in leadership.

The Importance of Teamwork and Continuous Learning

DuVernay’s approach to filmmaking and leadership emphasizes the importance of teamwork, patience, and continuous learning.

Her journey from publicist to award-winning director serves as an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers and leaders.

The Power of Authenticity

DuVernay emphasizes the importance of being authentic as a leader.

She believes that it’s crucial to remain true to oneself while navigating different situations and extracting what’s needed to lead effectively.

Admitting Ignorance as a Leadership Trait

DuVernay discusses the importance of admitting when you don’t know something, a trait she believes many leaders are uncomfortable with.

She feels that admitting ignorance doesn’t make a leader look incompetent, but rather opens up space for others to contribute their knowledge and ideas.

Building a Committed Team

DuVernay’s journey from independent to studio filmmaking allowed her to curate the people around her, starting with those willing to work for no money.

This experience taught her the value of building a team that shares her vision and is committed to the project.

I think the biggest thing I learned by studying [Martin Luther King Jr.’s] life and career was the team concept and the way that he managed teams… all that you see him what he became was not on the backs of but like being lifted up by a team who some supported it challenged it threatened it constantly refining it. – Ava DuVernay

Embracing Unique Leadership Styles

DuVernay believes that it’s important to bring who you are to your leadership style.

She encourages her actors, especially non-black actors, to embrace the unique experience of being directed by a black woman.

She believes that her authenticity and willingness to admit when she doesn’t know something are part of her unique leadership style.

Setting Clear Expectations and Building Trust

DuVernay’s approach to leadership also involves setting clear expectations and building trust.

She believes that setting high expectations and communicating them clearly can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.

When someone falls short of these expectations, she uses disappointment as a tool to motivate them to improve.

Choosing Projects with Emotional Resonance

When deciding what projects to take on, DuVernay chooses those that she feels most emotional about.

She believes in making the process intimate and spending time on things that truly matter to her.

She also discusses the concept of reluctant leadership, using the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a reluctant leader of the civil rights movement.

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