Oscars 2017 Mistake: Learning Leadership From Weak Leaders

oscars mistake 2017

Do you remember the 2017 Oscars mistake where La La Land was wrongly awarded the Oscar?

Much has been said and shown about that evening indeed, but nothing noteworthy when it comes to psychology, sociology, and proper social behavior.
This article will review the 2017 Oscars mistake from TPM’s perspective.

Warren Beatty Oscar Mistakes

First of all, let’s start with Warren Beatty, the main presenter.

He is the one that made the mistake and he is the one that came off the worst out of it. Not because he made the mistake, of course, but because of how he behaved both before and, even more, after.

Let’s see:

1. Crumbles Under Pressure

First of all, when Beatty sees the card, he realizes something is wrong.

However, instead of making sure he’s going to do the right thing, he vacillates and looks indecisive.

Probably he felt the pressure of the whole auditorium waiting for the winner, including Faye Dunaway standing beside and prodding him to go ahead.
Usually, it’s better to double-check and make sure that letting the people around rush you into something. Even if you realize everything was correct, you have really looked bad or “wasted time”: people will actually enjoy the little diversion.

2. Gives Card to Faye Dunaway

This might have happened because Beatty wasn’t unsure and maybe he felt safer with a second brain double-checking the information.

However, after the events, it’s only normal people will think he was simply passing the hot potato so he could shift the blame.

As a leader, you should actively avoid any behavior which will make you look like you are setting up others to take the blame for you. As Simon Sinek says in Leaders Eat Last, the only job of a leader is taking care of his team.

3. Relinquishes The Stage

What I found to be the biggest mistake of all though is how he reacted after they eventually found out there was a mistake.
Even if it was live, even if it was being watched by millions… A mistake like that means little, really.
And if you fix it and own it you gain power and respect, not lose it.

However, Beatty doesn’t fix, address or own the mistake in any way. He stays away from the microphone as Jordan Horowitz takes the lead like a bull(y) in a China shop.
Beatty also never seems willing to reclaim his microphone to make amends. Again, he stays in the background looking fearful and indecisive.

This was the moment the stage needed him to stand strong in his position as a leader.
And instead, he relinquishes it and allows someone else to take over (and do a bad job at it).

4. Doesn’t Own Mistake

Finally, when he meekly returns to the microphone, he looks defensive and apologetic.

Jimmy Kimmel: Meh

Jimmy Kimmel was the second in command.
And he does do better than Beatty.
He is the one who reclaims the microphone from Horowitz and he does what anyone should do in these cases: cracking a joke (he references a similar mistake at Miss Universe 2015)

That was gold: cracking a joke to release the tension.
However, a little later, he makes another joke, this time a rather bad one:

Joke’s on You Type of Joke

When from the side he screams to Beatty:

Warren, what did you do!

That’s one of those bad types of jokes. It’s bad because it puts the whole pressure on Beatty, implying he did a mistake. Instead of helping, this type of joke puts people down.
It points at Warren as the scapegoat, and that’s not how most people enjoy laughing because, unconsciously, everyone understands what’s wrong with that.

oscars mistake finger pointing
What did you do?

This is, after all, another attempt at social climbing at the expense of someone else.

Jordan Horowitz Oscars Mistake

Jordan Horowitz took over after Beatty’s mistake as the leader of the pack.
He was very dominant but way too forceful.

Overpowering Bully

He takes the microphone, calls people on stage, literally takes the card out of Beatty’s hands, and even announces the actual winner: S.

There are times when it’s best to be a leader and times when it’s best to be smart enough to enable a leader to lead well.
Horowitz should have gone for the latter here because Beatty was the leader, and not him. He should have helped Beatty re-take the lead and supported him in making up for his mistake.

Instead, he hijacks Beatty’s role like a bull(y) in a China shop.

Robs Beatty of The Chance of Making Amends

It’s a very dic*head behavior in my opinion because not only he behaves like a proper bully, but also because robs Beatty of the chance of quickly owning and making up for his mistake.

If Beatty had taken the microphone first thing after realizing his mistake, he could have come out of it neutrally. If he had been able to crack a good joke and own it well, he would have come out even better off.

Horowitz instead contributed to making Beatty look timid and fearful.
Horowitz might not have won that Oscar, but nobody can take away from him the prize of ahole of the night :).

Oscar statue

Oscars Mistake Lessons Learned

  1. Stand the pressure to get it right

The reason why Beatty made the mistake he made is that he gave in to the pressure of announcing the winner.
Undecided on whether to double-check or bow to the pressure, he bowed to the pressure.

If you’re in a similar position, prioritize getting it right instead of going with the flow.

  1. Take responsibility for a risky move

In hindsight, after we know what happened, Beatty looked really poor for having passed the letter to Dunaway.
It feels like he wanted to cover his as* in case something went wrong.

That’s the opposite of what a leader should do.

  1. fix the mistake

Own your mistake, apologize, take responsibility, and whenever you can, fix it.
If not, owning an apology is more than enough.
A mistake you own and take responsibility for will make you look better than if you had never done any mistake. Guaranteed.

  1. Push the bully away

And now finally to the main social power move lesson learned.
The host owns the stage.
And if it’s your stage, it’s your duty to manage the stage.
When some bully hijacks it, you must reclaim it.

It doesn’t matter if he’s younger, stronger, taller, balder, or angrier.
If you’re the host, it’s your duty to be the host.

Beatty should have walked toward the microphone and grabbed it. If Jordan Horowitz was still standing there, he should have lightly pushed him away.

If it sounds too much to you, it’s all a question of attitudes.
You are the host, you’ve done a mistake, YOU must fix it and correct it. It’s your moral obligation and moral duty to make sure YOU do it.


You’re never an asshole for pushing back against an asshole

Also, read:

How to Be A Good Asshole


The Oscars 2017 blunder was not a big mistake per se.
It would have been a big funny diversion if Beatty had owned it and provided the right leadership.

But because of weak leadership and a bully running slipshod, it ended up looking bad for almost everyone involved.

This article provided a socio-analysis of the now infamous 2017 Oscars mistake.

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