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January 08, 2009

Mentors Matter

This is the first in a series of posts sharing business lessons learned from the movie, AMERICAN GANGSTER.


Setting the Scene:
Bumpy Johnson was an organized crime kingpin in Harlem. His considerable wealth, street smarts education, penchant for violence, and charitable community efforts made him a larger-than-life figure. For over 15 years, Frank Lucas served as Bumpy’s driver, bodyguard, and collector. Everything Frank learned, he learned from Bumpy. So when Bumpy suffered a heart attack, Frank vowed to continue what his mentor started.

Frank Lucas on Bumpy Johnson
“He was my boss. My teacher. He taught me a lot of things. He taught me how to take my time, Taught me that if I was going to so something to do it with care, with love. Taught me to be a gentleman.”

Mentors Matter
The benefits of having a mentor cannot be understated. Developing a one-on-one relationship with someone you respect for their know-how and daily demeanor is a critical factor for many successful businesspeople. Mentors offer guidance, connections, criticisms, and support that can only help someone reach their professional goals.

Lisa Denny Compton was my mentor. She was also my boss. Without her patient counseling and marketing coaching, I shudder to think where my business life would be.

A mentor doesn’t have to be your boss. Mentors can came from anywhere … your co-worker, your neighbor, your pastor, your aunt, anyone. If you respect someone for what they have done/are doing, they can be your mentor. You just have to watch, listen, and apply the lessons they teach you.


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Not only is Frank Lucas a serious business man but he had a serious plan. He set his goal of being the biggest dealer and he accomplished it. He took serious risks going to Vietnam, but they were calculated ones. He executed his business strategy perfectly.

Of course he got a little ahead of himself and let his fame/fortune get the best of him. Like Jim Collins would say great leaders aren't necessarily highly visible and never get comfortable. Sorry Frank but that fancy hat/coat did you in; you should have been re-working your strategy at home.

Oh yeah ... Frank Lucas was indeed a Level 5 Leader and set forth to accomplish one helluva Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

ok, so i haven't seen the movie but appreciate the insights. i love the site and found it accidentally, but boy, i am glad i did.

so here is the question: besides the quote, are there mentoring nuggets throughout the film that can be gleaned without having to read between the lines?

don cox ... as odd as it may seem the mentoring advice passed down to Frank Lucas from Bumpy Johnson are basic principles of Servant Leadership.

At Lucas' trial, as depicted in the movie, he alludes to servant leadership when speaking with Richie Roberts, the lead prosecutor. Roberts was explaining how strong the evidence is Lucas and how he has witnesses who will testify against Lucas. Frank responded by saying something like, "I served Brooklyn and now Brooklyn will serve me."

Classic servant leadership thinking in action. Serve others and they will serve you.

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