Peripheral People

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oscar statueI recently heard Dustin Hoffman interviewed about his 50 year film career. In the interview Hoffman described himself as a peripheral person.

He noted how his 5’6″ boyish look never made him the automatic choice for a leading role. In 1967 Life Magazine said, “If Dustin Hoffman’s face were his fortune, he’d be committed to a life of poverty.”

The amazing thing about Hoffman is that he changed the idea of a leading male actor. The screenplay for one of Hoffman’s early films was written with a 6′ blonde-haired, blue-eyed leading role in mind (Robert Redford auditioned for the part.) Hoffman not only got the part he got an oscar nomination for his performance.

I’m not one to take sage-wisdom from Hollywood actors but something Hoffman said in his interview grabbed me: “Many times in life a peripheral person is the leading role.” (tweet that)

One of the downsides of success is that we begin to paint a picture of what a leading-role must look like. We look for candidates who score “head and shoulders” above in our pre-set criteria.

It’s not that we don’t know peripheral people exist. We see them and know of them but we don’t know them.

Like a David delivering food to the front lines, peripheral people often go unnoticed until Goliath lays dead and the business of “giant-slaying” is changed forever. (tweet that)

Who’s at the periphery of your life or your organization? Who doesn’t fit the current stereotype of a leading role? Have you labeled them as non-leading? Have you kept them from opportunities?

We have to make room for peripheral people in our lives and organizations. Because one day they are going to change the definition of a leading role and it’s best if they do it with us instead of leaving us.

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