Friday, March 28, 2014

Leadership lessons from Breaking Bad, part 2

A few weeks ago, I shared leadership lessons from Breaking Bad. I picked five of my favorite lessons. I had actually found a few other lessons, but I wanted to stick to seasons 1-4 so to not give anything away from the final season. Since sharing that post, I've received a bunch of emails asking for more leadership lessons from Breaking Bad. So here are the rest of the lessons I gleaned from watching the show. What other lessons do you find?

A review, if you haven't seen the show yet: Breaking Bad is a wonderful program about an educator (Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston) who goes back to professional practice in chemistry, and exhibits particular talent in his field. White partners up with a former student (Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul) and provides Jesse with remedial chemistry lessons in a sort of mentor relationship. They go into business together, and—without giving anything away—they encounter some "challenges" along the way. They also cook meth. But in a very science-y sort of way. Most of the episodes in the early seasons are about chemistry. In that they feature a lot of chemistry.

(Warning: spoilers from season 5.)

Be consistent

As a leader or as a manager, your team looks to you to model good workplace behavior. A peer mentor of mine reminds new leaders that sometimes "leadership is a performance." So be consistent in what you do. Actively look for ways to demonstrate the qualities you want others to follow. But be cautious about your performance.
Think creatively

When you encounter problems, do you sit and complain, or do you look for ways around the issue? Think outside the box, and find unique, simple solutions to the problems facing you. Whether you are working on a database project, or trying to hide your meth empire money hoard. And I have to admit that Skyler's hiding place was so obvious, I never would have thought of it.
Listen to advice

We don't have all the answers. As a friend and colleague often advises, "the answer is in the room." So be prepared to listen to advice as it comes to you. I find that it helps to start with the phrase "feedback is a gift," which allows me to mentally shift gears so I am prepared for feedback, and acts as a sort of "flag" that gives permission to those around me that it's okay to give honest, constructive feedback.
Watch out for your team

At a recent conference session, we discussed the qualities we like to see in our work colleagues, both leadership and team members. Of these aspects, "trustworthy" came out on top. Be worthy of trust. As a leader, you need to look out for your team, watch their back. No one wants to work for or with someone who doesn't have that trust.

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