What Don Draper Taught me about Leadership

What Don Draper Taught me about Leadership

What Don Draper taught me about Leadership ?

By Mark Wager

The multi award winning TV series " Mad Men " is back on our screens for its final season. Along with the series comes its main character the charismatic but flawed Don Draper. For ten years now we've been watching Don Draper win accounts, charm women and self destruct on our TV screen but are there any lessons to be learned here and of so what are they?

Wherever you find excellence you will find lessons that are invaluable for your own unique journey to success. What ever flaws the character may have Don does possess an element of genius when understanding the desires of others and presenting effectively his communicating ideas. It's in this method of communication that lessons can be learned.

Leaders need to inspire people in such a way that make will make them work for you with commitment and passion. In order to do this you need to communicate in an inspirational way.

Have a look at the video below. In this scene the Directors gather all the staff together in order to break the news that after a rough period in which the future of the company was in doubt they have now been invited to pitch for a prestigious account with Jaguar cars. Firstly, Pete Campbell talks to the team before Don Draper steps in and says a few words.

So when communicating, are you a Pete Campbell or a Don Draper?

To be a more inspirational leader like Don Draper remember these lessons when communicating with your team.

Be clear about the purpose of communication.
Too many Managers make the Pete Campbell mistake and believe that gathering a team together is for the purpose of relaying information e.g. "We are pitching for Jaguar, congratulations" you are missing the next step. Leaders should only relay information when they want a specific behavioural change as a result. The Directors wanted the team to be committed to the Jaguar pitch and to work extra hours coming up to the holiday season. Don's communication had this objective as the end goal while Pete just wanted to tell people what was happening.

Be a storyteller
One of the few things that has survived throughout the history of mankind is the sharing of a story. The methods of story telling have changed dramatically through history but a good story evokes emotions and inspires us. Who hasn't cried when watching a romantic or sad movie or laughed when reading a funny novel. Despite the methods of storytelling the essence of a story remains the same. There is a hero or a heroine. There is an obstacle in their way and they find a way to overcome that obstacle. Storytelling is an important tool for a leader and when quality leaders tell their story, they ensure that the listener is the hero of the piece. Its them that will overcome the obstacles and it's them that will have the happy ending. Don spoke about swimming the English Chanel and then drowning in champagne, invoking the obstacle and the happy ending of the story of which they are the hero.

"You" for praise and "we" for action.
When Don spoke, he said "when I look at the faces in this room who have given their all for this tenuous recovery," this is praise directed at the team, yet when he spoke about action, all the conversation was "we" repeated over and over. A leader doesn't need to include themselves in the praise but it's vital that they include themselves in the action. It's "we" that wins accounts. The leader needs to make it clear that we are all in it together and the leader will take off their jacket and work as hard as everyone else.

Keep it simple, keep it significant.
I've seen too many leaders fall into the trap of spending way too much time in communicating a simple message. This has been made worse by the invention PowerPoint. If you want to inspire your team, that will never happen through a slide. It will only happen face-to-face. People Inspire people. Slides don't. Ditch the slides and keep the communication short and effective and you will find having several quick stand up meetings far more effective than one long team meeting. If you've been doing your job correctly, you've hired some smart people so they should not need to be told what to do, they just need motivation to do it.

Don Draper's final and most important lesson is best summarised by one of his most famous quotes. "If you don't like what is being said, change the conversation." A leaders role is to ensure that correct narrative is in place within the team. In the video, the narrative could easily be that the firm is struggling and now we have to work weekends coming up to Christmas and New Year, but through the art of communication the narrative was that this was a significant moment they were all in. "Every agency on Madison Avenue is defined by the moment they got their car,when we land jaguar the world will know we've arrived"

If you want the world to know that your team has arrived then stop informing your team and start inspiring them.

If you like this article check out the new leadership book by Mark Wager called The Elite Guide to Leadership. Available at Amason for only $2.99USD. Click the image below to find out more

Posted: Monday 13 April 2015


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