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  • Writer's pictureRuss Hornfisher


Sitcoms as Leadership Training Tool

Over the course of my career I have worked for eleven companies, they varied in size, geographic location and most importantly in leader styles. On more than one occasion I would see the people I worked with by day as characters on television programs in the evening.

I worked with people who had similar behavior as MASH characters, Radar O’Reilly the under paid, underappreciated, company clerk who knew all of the intricate workings of the organization and quietly made decision to create success; Frank Burns the wanna-bee leader with a title, very insecure, with no leadership skills, and a propensity to constantly screwing up; Colonel Blake the Lasse Faire management style commander of the camp, who neither led nor did he interfere with the unorthodox, unselfish, dedication behavior of middle lower level management staff.

At another organization I worked with people who you would swear were right out of casting for WKRP in Cincinnati with the likes of Jennifer Marlowe the company presidents secretary who possessed sophistication and experience to the point of actually running the organization; Les Nesman the incompetent, newsman in need of recognition, with good intent that often resulted in mishaps; Venus Flytrap the very stylish, suave, evening disc jockey; John Fever the morning DJ who appears to have lost a lot of brain cells in the 60’s yet offers profound thoughts; Andy Travis the new, young, over ambitious, station manager with progressive ideas who is unable to move the organization as fast as he would like. The company I worked for had all of these characters with the same behaviors, only different names.

Then there was the years I worked in an organization who closely mimicked the behavior of the cast from F-Troop, Captain Wilton Parmenter the naïve, gullible leader; Sargent O’Rourke and his dim witted accomplice Corporal Randolph Agarn who used the organization for personal gain; then there were the simple minded troopers who unquestioningly followed directions, doing just the minimum to survive; best of all the Hekawi Indian Tribe (who got there name after head west, to escape the Pilgrims invasion, became lost, and their leader was heard to say where-the-heck-are-we) who adapted and adjusted to whatever environment they are subjected and us it to their advantage.

The absolute most entertaining were the years I was sure I was on the set of Hogan’s Heroes. While the egocentric, superior attitude, self-centered captors including the incompetent routinely manipulated Kommandant Col. Klink; arrogant, pushy, brash, but easily dupped Major Hockstetter; prototypical German General Burkhalter cautious decision making so as to always look good in Berlin. While the unassuming, humble, non-threatening in-mates, based the view of their captors, yet, were in fact running the asylum. While titled management spent their time trying to impress each other with extensive meetings, conference calls, and secretive behavior they were not paying any attention to the working staff, these people were very impressed with themselves. While at the same time the workers, able to work freely without management distractions, went about building a positive customer experience, improving production efficiency, and ultimately growing sales. Often manipulating management to stay out of the way of progress, the workers were able to make their own rules and procedures to get things done.

Those were my work sitcoms experiences, what are yours?

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