We don’t ordinarily think about television shows as being learning tools but there are a couple of shows that have provided some lessons on leadership skills. Each represents a completely different style.
One of those shows is NCIS: New Orleans and, if you’ve been watching, you know the character, Sebastian, is kind of evolving from his forensic role. In an episode from a couple of weeks ago, Sebastian attends a leadership training session and ends up as team leader. He gets a call from Hannah, a lead team member from the New Orleans group, and while on the phone with her, he asks her for advice on being a team leader.
Hannah gives great advice. She tells Sebastian he needs to respect everyone’s differences plus he needs to understand and acknowledge his team members’ strengths and weaknesses. She tells him he needs to tell his own strengths and weaknesses so he can relate better to them. The other important thing Hannah says to him is he needs to allow them a voice in solving the problems they face and LISTEN to them.
Sebastian follows Hannah’s advice as he takes full responsibility for a failed mission and explains the reasons to his team. This prompts his team members to also tell their strengths and weaknesses. As Sebastian listens to them, he agrees with them about their strengths but as they tell about their weaknesses he reminds them who they are and what they can do to overcome those weaknesses.
In another segment of the episode, Sebastian again takes Hannah’s advice and shows compassion on a team member when the team member explains with good reason why he had to break the rules and bring his cell phone to connect with his son. Sebastian, again listening to the team member, says as the team leader he’ll take responsibility for the phone and will hand it over when the son calls.
While the NCIS: New Orleans episode provides a positive model for effective leadership skills, another show offers a great example of an ineffective leadership style. On Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, Briana, Grace and Robert’s daughter, has taken over her mother’s company. Briana is anything but a leader.
She is very demanding of employees, including of her sister who is an employee. In one episode a typical expectation of any employee is shown when Briana tells her sister she needs to stay at work to help with reports instead of going home to her kids. Briana has no problem telling people when they’ve done something wrong but rarely tells them when they’ve done something right. Providing praise is not her strength. She also is quick to point out the faults in others but she sees no wrong with what she does even when she clearly is in the wrong. Briana has a difficult time when people want to leave the organization. It’s difficult for her to understand because she believes she provides the best possible working place.
Despite the shows being designed for entertainment, they do provide some examples of leadership styles that can be typical of the workplace. Even though they may give the impression leadership skills are easy to pick up, as in one or a few episodes, they still help demonstrate a skill set. Sebastian’s style is very much the participative management or coaching style that works with teams and their development. An article in Forbes magazine also emphasizes many of the skills from the NCIS show. The article says some of the skills Briana displays may be tempting but they aren’t the skills of good leaders or managers and that her leadership style is not what’s needed in today’s workplaces.
In a high-performance work system, leaders encourage the involvement of employees and want them to be creative and come up with new ideas. It’s the same type of behavior exhibited by Hannah and Sebastian. As Hannah said, it’s important to allow team members to have a voice and LISTEN to them. This may require being open-minded and taking some risk but it helps with development not only for individuals but also for an entire team.
Leaders, like Sebastian, are coaches. They recognize the abilities of employees. They know their strengths but they also know where employees may need a little more assistance and support. Good leaders help with success not just with individuals but to make the entire team successful.
If an employee or team needs some additional training, good leaders make that happen. They know their investment in that training will translate into rewards for everybody on an ongoing basis. It’s part of the respect and belief leaders have in the people that work for them.
When leaders follow these types of behaviors it does great things for the workplace. Issues of low morale go away, relationships and communication improve. It also increases productivity and decreases turnover costs as people are more likely to remain. The overall atmosphere is one where everybody can be proud to call their workplace.
As far as Briana’s style goes, there may be times when leaders have to take a “command and control” approach. Crisis situations may be one of those and employees understand that. In fact, they expect it. But they also expect to be treated dignity and respect and allowed to have a voice in the workplace.
But, as Hannah said, it’s not easy being a leader. There is no specific instruction for it. There are, though, certain characteristics leaders do need to demonstrate.
We’re going to be posting on our CALMC Channel on YouTube some short videos on basic supervisor information in the near future that gives some information about those characteristics. Keep watching for them on the CALMC Channel!