Television bosses tend to be characterized as buffoons, unable to understand their workforce or clients, or simply too greedy to care about either. But despite their shortcomings, some of TV's most famous bosses still have a few lessons to teach us about leadership and management.
Here are some things real-life managers can take away from the following small-screen leaders:
The Office's Michael Scott: He often acts like a confused child in his role as office leader. He organizes movie days. He schedules in-office birthday parties for each employee. He spends most of his time at work trying to encourage everyone to have fun -- rather than actually working.
What managers can learn from Michael Scott is that treating employees like people is important, and how you treat your workforce reflects how you too would like to be treated. However, Scott seeks overall to be his employees' friend, rather than their boss – so they often end up walking all over his leadership. Bosses should take note: to guide as a friend is to lose control of your workplace. You need to find a healthy balance between the two.
The Simpsons' Mr. Burns: He's possessed by his focus on profits. He has no qualms about putting his workers in dangerous situations to cut costs and expand his financial empire. He cares nothing for their personal lives – mostly because he cares nothing for his.
As the consummate workaholic boss, Burns is a warning to any leader who takes himself too seriously, has no time for his own life, and demands the same sacrifices out of his workers. Work is all he has, so he expects a similar attitude from his workforce. Bosses should be mindful that while they may have tunnel vision about their work, their employees probably have other concerns.
The West Wing's President Jed Bartlett: He's constantly under pressure, from struggling to pass bills in Congress to trying to find a solution to a hostage crisis. He sometimes avoids speaking with his entire team in times of great pressure, looking only to his Chief of Staff to sort him through all the options.
By excluding some of his staff, who usually have contrary opinions, the President is better able to make pressing decisions without the full field of data. In business, dealing with 10 or more voices on certain issues can be detrimental – recognizing those cases and taking control is the right choice.
24's Jack Bauer: Although he's just one part of a larger counter terrorism organization, he acts like a rogue boss. He drives his colleagues to follow his commands – many of which are illegal. Bauer doesn't care for the rules; instead he focuses on achieving the organizations's goals – protecting American lives – with reckless abandon.
Jack Bauer acts like a boss unto himself by refusing to share responsibility with team members unless he has no other choice. This often leads to conflicts within the workplace between those who trust Jack and those who don't. Responsible bosses need to learn to delegate and share the load of work, even during crunch time, and work through their colleagues deficiencies, rather than compromise the organization for a single goal. Empowering your employees is key to building a successful organization.