Seven lessons of leadership we learnt from The Office
Of course, Michael Scott was not the only boss that the Scranton office of Dunder Mifflin had over the years. Sadly, he left at the end of series seven and his successors had leadership styles that were entirely their own. Given that there were lots of successors, we can gather that they weren’t exactly incredibly successful. However, we can learn from each character something valuable about leadership.
- Robert California. This was the sex-crazed boss who took over after it turned out that Will Ferrell was only contracted for a few episodes. As Robert California stared down the camera at the audience, we knew that we were in for a unique style of leadership. Eventually it all got too much for him and he left Dunder Mifflin never to be seen again. However, though his character was scary and intimidating in the beginning, we began to think him not as mad as he initially seemed.
- Andy Bernard. Whether you believe David Wallace really should have chosen Andy to replace Robert California as manager of the Scranton branch, Andy certainly had camaraderie with his employees. It can be hard to lead when you are promoted ahead of your peers and gaining their trust when you once bantered with them at the water cooler can be difficult. However, Andy’s biggest faux pas as boss was not to undermine his former colleagues, but to disappear entirely for three months on a sailing trip with no prior warning. During his absence, the company was incredibly profitable which only served to demonstrate how superfluous Andy was both as an employee, and as regional manager.
- Nellie Bertram. If you see a job that you want, simply give yourself that role. Catherine Tate’s character effortlessly assumed the role as manager of the company when Andy went off on his sailing trip. Though never formally employed, she managed to manipulate her way into the company in the final seasons. Initially abrasive and rude, Nellie softened up and revealed her more vulnerable side. As a manager, she wasn’t much cop but given that she actually turned up for work everyday, she did much better than Andy!
- Jo Bennet. Played by the fantastic Kathy Bates, Bennet is a character who takes no nonsense from anyone. Once she’s bought Dunder Mifflin, she makes sure that productivity in each branch is high. This Southern woman is not to be messed with, putting Michael right in his place after he attempts to woo her and bring out her softer side.
- Jan Levinson. Frequently the butt of sexist jokes and banter in the office and the warehouse, Jan was able to rise above and succeed in a ‘man’s job’. Her relationship with Michael Scott could be seen as a faux pas as he was a liability when it came to liaising with corporate. However, after a successful boob job and leaving Michael, she became the leader of her own company and the epitome of the successful self-made woman and single mother.
- David Wallace. He is a complicated character but we can establish that he really is just trying to do what’s best for the business. It can’t be easy having to manage people like Michael Scott without firing them at the first opportunity. However, Wallace’s plan to usurp Jan with a new employee was not handled well in season three, it’s always good to give someone the ‘heads up’ before you interview for their replacement in front of them. Wallace also made a bad business decision by hiring Ryan, previously an intern at Scranton who had not made a single sale. The power eventually got to Ryan’s head and he had to be let go. However, Wallace gained back his credibility after being laid off by buying back Dunder Mifflin from Robert California and reinstating himself as CFO. His character arc truly went full circle and he was probably one of the sanest people on the show.
- Dwight K. Schrute. Dwight is the perfect example of earning your leadership role. His first chance as boss is cut dramatically short after he fires a gun in the office. However, by the end of the show we are really rooting for him to become regional manager of Dunder Mifflin. After years of painful pranks from Jim, giving himself the ‘assistant to the regional manager’ title and his lifelong dedication to his job (Dwight wanted to die at his desk, then quits his job after going over Michael’s authority to Corporate) he finally becomes the character that could. He is the success story of Scranton.
Whether you think any of these characters actually deserved to be regional manager is up to you. They certainly all had a unique style of leadership. Perhaps if they’d all read Bas Blekkingh’s Authentic leadership, they would have all been a little bit better at their jobs.