Management Lessons from Leave It to Beaver

It was my grandmother who introduced me to the Beaver.


It was my grandmother who introduced me to the Beaver.

While I cannot recall the specifics of a single episode from
the times I watched with her, I do recall a black and white image of a toothy
kid with a winsome smile who always seemed to be get into a pickle of one sort
or another either with his good natured older brother Wally or one of his
friends. His parents, June and Ward, were always understanding. And that’s
about all you need to know about one of early television’s most popular shows, Leave It to Beaver, which ran for six
seasons from 1957 to 1963.

Over the decades I have seen the show in reruns a few times
since and always found the episodes while corny to be worth watching for their
down to earth simplicity and heartwarming charm. So much so I looked up a few
from the show and found that they just might provide some insights to
managers seeking to keep their teams on an even keel. 

June: “Ward, I’m very
worried about the Beaver.”

Managers need to focus attention on urgent issues. Beating
around the bush won’t do. Like June you must face up to the issue and address
it immediately. 


Beaver: I
could use my own money, the twenty-five dollars I got in the bank.
Wally: I thought you were saving that to go to college.

Beaver: Larry
says he never heard of a college you could go to for twenty-five dollars.

Running a
department requires attention to the bottom line, but never doubt your
employee, like Beaver, can see right through certain cost cutting measures. Be
honest in all you say and do.

Eddie Haskell:
Gee, your kitchen always looks so clean.
June: Why, thank you,
Eddie Haskell: My mother says it looks as though you never do any work in

No manager can
expect employees to appreciate all that you do for them. So suck it up and
focus, like June did for her family, on what you can do for them. But don’t
expect anyone to notice.


Ward: Beaver, you know what Larry was doing was wrong. You could have
stopped him.
Beaver: Gee, Dad, I have enough trouble keeping myself good without
keeping all the other kids good.

This logic works well for kids but not
for managers. As Ward admonished the Beaver, managers need to assume
responsibility for the actions of their team. Not a pleasant thought when
things go wrong but it defines a manager’s ability to get the work done.


Beaver: Boy, I sure wish there was
somebody in the family for me to yell at.
Wally: That’s your tough luck.

Every employee might
feel like this once in awhile. So it’s up to the manager to remind employees of
their worth. Or as Beaver put it to Wally, “You know something, Wally. I’d
rather do nothin’ with you than somethin’ with anybody else.”

Leave It to Beaver
was not just a fairy tale. Recently Neil Genzlinger of New York Times interviewed four members of the cast now in their
sixties who achieved adulthood without the notoriety that has plagued so many
child stars. One reason might be that the producers of the show created a kind
of wholesome atmosphere on the set. As Tony Dow who played Wally recalled, a crewmember
who used a curse word on the set was gone the next day. Hugh Beaumont who
played Beaver’s dad had a master’s in theology; so the homilies he regularly
delivered to the boys might have echoed with his own spiritual intentions.

Leave It to Beaver
was meant as family entertainment, but amidst its simplicity, presented in
black and white, there are universal truths about getting along with others –
peers and authority figures – that are worth remembering. Which, as the Beaver
said so often, “Gee Wally, that’s swell.”


John Baldoni is an
internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach,
author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s
top 25 leadership experts. John’s new book is 
Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up
(Amacom 2009). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website,