There has been much written and many opinions expressed on whether using fictional leaders and fictional teams as an example of good practice or inspiration is of any real value or not. I was asked by a colleague recently, in a rather whimsical way, if I thought that new managers can learn lessons in leadership and teamwork from fictional teams like ‘The A Team’ or ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and fictional leaders such as Captain Kirk (Star Trek), Nick Fury (Avengers) Aragorn (Lord of the Rings) and even Darth Vader (no introduction needed). This got me thinking about how many times I had actually seen examples of this used in training and indeed used them myself where characters from TV and films are held up as exemplar in terms of their leadership style or team working and problem solving capabilities. However it is interesting to ponder whether it is a good idea or even useful at all to suggest that we can learn lessons from heavily scripted scenarios that bear little or no resemblance to real life.
It would be easy to side with the detractors who would claim that using, for instance, the A Team as an example of great teamwork could be fraught with danger given that it’s heavily scripted and, well, just not real. Using that as an example of good teamwork where apparently the team is made up of the (scriptwriters vision) of the perfect balance of characteristics, skills and knowledge capable of rendering any seemingly impossible situation very solvable in a one hour episode, could be viewed as frivolous at best and dangerous at worst. Therefore it could be concluded that it has no real value at all as the real world is a very different place. It may be accurate to suggest that very little can be taken from a world where the unknown and ‘human’ or X factor, which makes all interactions unpredictable, is missing.
However, one could also take the view that it’s not meant to be real of course and it is because it’s heavily scripted that this provides an opportunity for us to present a view on how things should be done. The advocates of using such methods may well argue that it is acceptable to bring a touch of originality to the training room, in whatever form it comes, whether that be using video clips of the A Team, case studies based on the make up the Avengers’ team roles or indeed using any element of humour or suspension of disbelief and using it as an outside influence in learning – that is to say an outside of ‘reality’ influence and bringing it to bear in an environment where participants are actively encouraged to be open minded. It may be argued that this can have the potential to engender some creative thinking from a new manager about how he or she may aspire to behave, think and manage people, thus effecting a positive change in behaviour.
The Patrick Stewart version of Star Trek saw his character Jean-Luc Picard chairing an officers briefing at the beginning of most episodes in which everyone was asked to present current challenges. Predictably all attendees were fully prepared, the meeting was always clear, precise, understood by all and most importantly, timely and succinct. Heavily scripted, yes; contrived, of course, but would it do any real harm to take the very principles of what a good briefing should be from an entity such as Star trek and use it to our advantage to make a point in a slightly more entertaining way? Especially when you consider that many of us bemoan the fact that many meetings we attend are often be perceived as dull, unnecessary, badly prepared and a waste of time. When the truth is that they are probably very necessary and only a waste of time because the process it let down by attendees not being suitably prepared, no real structure or the chair allowing unnecessary debate to go on far too long. So using Jean-Luc and his briefing style as an example of how it should be done, in theory at least, may not be a bad thing in the final analysis. Perhaps it simply comes down to the context in which one uses the example in question and how much credence is actually given to it considering it’s not grounded in reality.
Fictional teams and people to make a serious point? If these examples are being presented seriously and lauded as the gospel, purporting to be a potential silver bullet or golden elixir solution representing the panacea of curing all leadership and team working challenges where delegates are encouraged to emulate this behaviour without question, then perhaps more caution should be exercised. However, using them as examples of the kind of behaviour that we may aspire to or employing team working methods which may produce different results for us, could be worth trying. Especially when delivered with a dose of reality, humour and applying a large helping of common sense with regular reality checks. As this may help delegates to consider how they might potentially adjust their own approach and behaviour slightly in order to elicit a different outcome from their team and those around them.
Maguire Training deliver leadership and team working programmes and courses at all levels from inductees to Board level. Call us on 0333 5777 144 to chat through how we can help provide the perfect learning solution for you. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.