Why Butch and Sundance Still Matter: Lessons for Leaders

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Everyone has seen the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Each time I see the movie I recognize that smart managers and leaders apply the lessons from the film every day. What? Robbing banks? Shooting at Bolivian soldiers? Breaking the law? Hanging out with the “Hole in the Wall Gang”? Sure they did all of that and made a good living, albeit only for a while. The real lessons Butch and Sundance showed us are more subtle. Here is just a sampling of lessons to be learned from Butch and The Kid.


  • Need Complementary Skills: Butch was an idea guy and Sundance was more about implementation. A good combination on any team.
  • Concentrate on Strengths: The Hole in the Wall Gang was world-class when it came to robbing trains and banks. They didn’t stray off into counterfeiting or other pursuits.
  • Encourage Fun at Work: A sense of humor and perspective prevailed with the team leaders in the face of adversity. The guys could have fun and laugh at themselves just to break the tension of robbing a train.
  • Can Be Sympathetic: When Butch and Sundance came across the clerk who they had robbed before, (E.C. Woodcock) they were more than sympathetic in understanding his point of view.
  • Change Plans as Necessary: Sometimes plans don’t go, well, exactly as planned. Butch and Sundance were pros at dealing with the situation and changing plans accordingly.
  • Recognize That Other Teams Are in Pursuit: There is always a competitor or another team trying to catch up to a high performing team. Butch knew that other teams were always after them even if he didn’t exactly know their identity, as in, “Who are those guys?”
  • Constantly Develop New Skills: Sundance developed his swimming skills after he and Butch jumped off the cliff. Great teams work on identifying what skills are needed to be an even better performing team.
  • Improvise: When you are out of options, improvise and try. Good teams are always creating new and better options. As Butch and The Kid learned, sometimes there is only one option left to try.

See the movie again. You will agree that there are classic lessons to be learned.

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