I just recently finished the last episode of the hit television show Breaking Bad. Yeah, I know, it took me awhile. Truth is, it took me so long to watch it because I almost quit watching it in the middle of season three. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, (and by using that term I realize I am an old fuddy-duddy) but I had grown weary of the increasing violence, and the immorality and lewdness of the characters. Most importantly, however, I had lost all respect for the character I assumed was the “hero” of the show. I was rooting for Walter White from the beginning, but my ability to continue rooting for him eroded rapidly as he told one lie after another and performed acts of ever increasing selfishness. That left me with no one to root for, and for me, having a rooting interest is an important aspect of a compelling television show.
Fortunately (although I would have lived had I not completed all the episodes), a friend of mine convinced me to finish watching the show to its end. He assured me that I would find someone to root for, and he was right. As my fealty for Walter White turned to disdain, my respect and admiration for his brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (who comes across as an uptight, know it all jerk in the first few seasons), grew. Hank was the antithesis of Walter, and the juxtaposition between the two made a great dramatic foil for the writers of Breaking Bad.
As I contemplated these two characters, and their diametrically opposite characteristics, I realized that the attributes exhibited by each provides a great insight into leadership. Walter White led by employing the tactics of manipulation, deceit, unbridled aggression, and a total disregard of people other than himself. While you might lead people successfully for a short time using the leadership tactics of Walter, you will ultimately fail. These tactics are usually exposed by the light of truth at some point, and lead to the utter ruin of those who employee them. I am reminded of the several recent examples like Tyco, Enron, and the famous Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme.
However, life-long leaders who employ the tactics and characteristics of Hank Schrader will ultimately win. Hank was the ultimate example of the power of leading with loyalty, hard work, dedication, devotion to justice, and most importantly an unwavering commitment to the truth. These leaders might not make as much money, or grab the social spotlight, but in the end they will have the undying love and respect of those who know them. You cannot place a financial value on love and respect because they cannot be bought. They can only be earned.
Lead like Hank.