Leadership Lessons in 24

Jack Bauer is back! If you don’t know who that is this probably is not the blog for you. Fox’s hit series 24 returned to television this week with 24: Live Another Day. This is the ninth season of the show and the first in four years. The show follows a American hero named Jack Bauer during extremely long days of his life where he time and time again saves the country from attacks. I have been watching 24 from the beginning and I highly recommend the action packed show (entire series is on Netflix). In honor of Jack Bauer’s return here are some leadership lesson from 24:

  • Team of Two Concept – One of Jack’s flaws is that he tends to operate on his own. At times in the show this is necessary because he is unsure of who he can trust. But throughout the series (and on the first episodes of its return) Jack teams up with someone to get the best results. More often than not it has been his friend Chloe. But he has also teamed with others who have helped him protect the country. The team of two concept is the best way to multiply and get results. This is an important concept in our new book, The Turnaround.
  • Trust is the foundation of teamwork and leadership – Jack has issues trusting people (for obvious reasons). In the first two episodes of the new season, Jack fails to trust Chloe when doing so would have been easier and would have led to faster and better results. Jack is a flawed leader because of his lack of trust in other people.
  • Leaders make sacrifices – Jack has made numerous sacrifices throughout the eight long days of his life that we see. He has made sacrifices for his country and for people he has cared about. Most of all he has sacrificed himself. As leaders we cannot have it all. We must make sacrifices for our followers and in order to get the best results. What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals?
  • Your goals or the goals of others? – You are always working on goals. It is your choice whether they are your goals or the goals of others. Jack sacrifices his goals for others. He makes a choice to work on the goals of others more often than his own goals. This is noble, but it also leads to issues. Whose goals are you working on?

Okay I am sure there are a lot more lessons, but a theme I am seeing is that most of the leadership lessons from Jack Bauer in 24 are lessons we learn from his flaws and failures. Jack Bauer is a fictional hero. He is a leader who made a difference (on tv). But he has many flaws. Yes we can learn from some of the amazing things he does, but we learn most from his flaws and failures. Effective leaders have trust in people and know that they are the solution to problems. They are not simply the obstacle. Jack doesn’t really get this.

I am glad Jack is back because 24 is an awesome show. I encourage everyone to watch it. But know that Jack is not a leader we should strive to be like. There is only one Jack Bauer and that is good because we must be better leaders than Jack. Maybe that is the most important lesson we should learn from him. Throughout this blogs history we have often written Lead Like blogs about special leaders. This blog is a do not lead like blog. Don’t lead like Jack Bauer. Be better. Be a true leader who makes a difference by investing in people and you will get a positive return.

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