Everything I know about management I learned from TV

William Petersen as Gil Grissom, David Caruso as Horatio Caine, Gary Sinese as Mac Taylor, Mark Harmon as Jethro Gibbs, Anthony LaPaglia as Jack Malone. These guys are the franchise players of primetime TV.  But they are also role models.  Each represents a different management style.

David Caruso in CSI: Miami seems to have contracted a terrible case of William Shatner disease and now takes himself much too seriously.  He’s always posing with the sun glasses, standing side ways, and talking with that over-the-top emphasis.  Everything is now said with maximum menace, including things like “Billy…get…me…a…SANDwich.”  Working for a guy like this would be agony.  You’d have to worry about stepping on his lines, or standing in his light.  Bosses like this are self dramatizing, but everyone has to pitch in because they like it when we dramatize them too.  Call this the diva management style.

Of course, Petersen as Grissom left CSI, and TV is the poorer.  Sure, he was a little creepy with all the bug stuff, and, yes, he always seemed to be trying a little too hard with the poetry.  But otherwise, he seemed a decent guy, the sort of guy who would cut his staff  a little slack.  The kind of manager who didn’t care how you got it done as long as you got it done. Call this the professorial management style

What about Sinese as Mac Taylor in CSI: New York?  You get the feeling that the actor is still looking for the role, and as a result the character still has all of his humanity in tact.  He’s not quite sure how to play certain situations.  Sometimes he comes on too strong.  Sometimes, he’s dialled so far back it’s like his phoning it in.  Sinese is still working on his managerial signal, and this makes him the most human of these characters.  Not the best to work for, but the most interesting to watch. Call this the still-working-on-it management style.

This distinguishes him from Anthony LaPaglia as Jack Malone in Without a Trace.  LaqPaglia acts as if his exposure to weekly tragic events has destroyed his capacity for feeling.  His reaction to everything is the same: silent, suffering witness.  Dude, snap out of it.  We get it, life’s a bitch, then you die.  Lighten up a little. Call this the funerial management style.

The best person to work for is clearly Mark Harmon on NCIS.  That is if Anthony DiNozzo, Ziva David, Timothy McGee, Abby Sciuto,and Dr. Donald Mallard are anything to go by.  This little ensemble cast has more fun in a given program than Caruso’s people do in a season.  Viewers, too.  The secret is Gibbs’ perfect balance.  He is impatient with anything less than perfection even as he manages to indulge the playfulness and eccentricities of his crew.  It’s a fine line.  Call this the perfect management style.

In the world of TV there are several managerial options.  Those of us who serve as managers want to choose wisely. 

11 thoughts on “Everything I know about management I learned from TV

  1. Peter

    You forgot to mention that, according to tv, you must still be male to manage, even ineptly (the Office, say). Women are still consigned to the soaps, whether day or night, adult or teen….

    Plus, none of these characters micro-manage. Because that would likely be as miserable to watch as it is to live under….

  2. Sebastian Franck

    How about Trevor Eve in Waking the Dead? I know it’s British, but you may have seen it anyway. If you haven’t you definitely should. If you have, I’de love to hear your take.

  3. srp

    There are woman leaders on TV in major roles.

    Don’t forget Dr. Cutty on House! She’s a pragmatic type–fit the job to the people if you can’t fit the people to the job, scrounge for resources wherever you can, know your own limitations.

    Then there’s the boss-lady Adelle on Dollhouse, who operates with ruthless efficiency and a Machiavellian understanding of her own and everyone else’s strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Raymund Mitchell

    If you’re going to stick to CBS shows, why not Jonas Blaine from “The Unit”. Respectful to his leaders and subordinates when appropriate. Delegates effectively, does not agonize over making a decision, knows when to break the rules, leads by example and pitches in to do the “dirty work” and still manages to maintain some work life balance (until the last two episodes).

  5. Rick Liebling

    You have to mention Mad Men. Roger Sterling with his laissez faire, just give me a drink approach. Don Draper is an engima, and would be extremely hard to work for I would imagine.

  6. Charles

    Ah, one more comment. The most disappointing Ali G episode, for me, was when he interviewed another speaker of truth. Chomsky. It felt like he was doing it to a family member.

  7. Ishiza

    You made a good point in every analyses of the different characters. But I think you have been a bit to hard on Horation C. Cane. Sure, he is pretty sure of himself, but he does step in for his employees and he doesn’t hold everything against them. For example in season one episode 18, when the convoy with the drugs gets mugged, a cop gets killed and Speedle’s gun wasn’t cleaned as it should have been. in this situation horatio doesn’t tell on him though he knows. he even encourages speedle to get over it and told him, that it wasn’t his fault and stuff.
    In another example in season two episode 5, when Calleigh gets distracted by the case of her father, horatio doesn’t say anything about that and is happy about the results she has till then.
    And in when Eric is about to get sent to Kuba, Horatio puts in very much effort to get him back into the CSI.
    Taking these Aspects into cout i think Horatio as a boss is not as bad as you pictured him here.

  8. Eva

    Esta es de las mejores series que han producido, definitivamente cautiva.
    por favor produscan mas capitulos.

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