Real-world examples of exceptional leaders are few and far between, since so many would-be WOWs stop short of their full potential. But in the fictional world of television, where anything is possible, there are a plethora of examples from which to draw inspiration, according to Sheri Staak in her book Tune in to WOW Leadership: 10 Lessons Learned from America’s Favorite Shows. If we look beneath the surface of the drama, comedy, sentimentality, and occasional horror of what we see on TV, we find layers of truth. We can relate to it, understand it, and learn from it.
The book goes on to illustrate numerous aspects of leadership by reference to televisions shows and characters. Good leaders are referred to by the author as WOWs, while bad leaders are referred to as DUDs. The WOWs are honest, trustworthy, humble, respectful, dedicated to self-improvement, authentic, goal-driven visionaries, effective communicators, invested in others, inspirational motivators, agents of change and bold decision makers and problem solvers. The DUDs are power-hungry, greedy, egotistical and self-serving.
While the author has many useful things to say about good leadership, in the real world there is not such a sharp distinction between the good and the bad. Someone possessing most of the WOW characteristics, for example, may still be a very poor leader if he or she is not sufficiently assertive or resilient to be able to overcome entrenched opposition. On the other hand, some people with obvious character flaws such as oversized egos still manage to become very effective leaders.
Unfortunately I was not familiar with most of the television characters referenced by the author, and that may have adversely influenced my level of engagement. The book contains numerous checklists, which some readers may find helpful.