Weekender: Patrick Stewart on Modeling Behavior

Patrick StewartWelcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a bit of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a bit? Because it’s the weekend!

How often do you consider the degree to which you indirectly influence the team? The ways you demonstrate your expectations, desired behaviors, and ethics are more effective than anything you can verbalize. Just look at Patrick Stewart.

We know Patrick Stewart from his iconic roles on Star Trek, X-Men, and his current show, Blunt Talk. But before any of this, Stewart was a struggling actor learning the ropes. In a recent interview, he relayed an experience from one of his first movie roles where he had a little part in Hennessy with legendary actor Rod Steiger.

Rod Steiger (1925 - 2002), American film actor.    (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

As with most movies, Steiger (the lead actor) shot his scene first to get his coverage. The crew then adjusted the camera to shoot Stewart. Typically, the less known actor shoots his coverage without the lead actor present. According to Stewart, Rod Steiger did not find this acceptable.

They finished shooting Rod’s coverage and the Assistant Director said, ‘Alright Rod, it’s about forty minutes to lunch; why don’t you go and have your lunch and we’ll finish off here.’ And Rod said, ‘What about Patrick, you haven’t covered him?’ The AD said, ‘We’ll do that now. Don’t worry about it; someone will read in your lines.’ And Roy stood up saying something like, ‘Who the f—k do you think I am? You think I’m going to walk off this stage and leave an actor here with you and some idiot reading in for him?’ He was irate with fury, which is why to this day I always read in my off camera lines, no matter what.

Keep in mind, when Steiger said this to the AD, he had no previous relationship with Stewart. In addition, Steiger was an established star, while Stewart was years away from his breakout role. The only reason Steiger spoke up is because he took responsibility for leading the movie set. He knew that as the lead of the film he set the tone for the crew and the other actors.

Since learning this valuable lesson, Stewart has been paying it forward with every movie, television program, and Broadway show. As he said,

If you’re the lead in a movie, you set the bar… You are the standard of the work. You know your lines. You hit your mark. You’re on time. You’re not sitting in your trailer for half an hour while everyone is waiting for you. You take everybody into account all the time.

Sounds like a leader to me.