The Vice President eased back into his chair and shook his head wistfully. “Unless you’ve sat in this chair, you have no idea what it is like.” Vice President Noah Daniels was referring to the President’s seat which he had assumed when the President had been seriously injured in a bomb blast. In the twelve hours or so he had been President, he had tried to launch a pre-emptive strike against a Middle Eastern state, had gone toe-to-toe with the Russians than nearly provoked another war, and acknowledged an affair he had been having with an aide (albeit unwittingly) who had been feeding state secrets to the Russians. Worse, he had dared to contradict the judgment of ace agent, Jack Bauer, CTC’s sometimes rogue, but always honest, super agent. Thank goodness this is only TV, courtesy of Fox’s 24.
The Vice President’s rare moment of reflection illustrates a key point that is not fiction – the need to take stock and to evaluate you openly and honestly. And so for those of us in management who lead real lives, here’s what the Vice President taught us.
Ease up on gut instinct. The Vice President assumed his leadership role in the wake of the President’s injury with absolute certainty. He wanted to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike and he was bound and determined to outfox the Russians. Both moves proved to be reckless, not to mention perilous, and backfired. Daniel’s gut was not match for the realities of presidential decision-making. Trusting the gut too much may allow you to make decisions influenced by passion rather than reality. Gut instincts are good, yes, but too much guts can roil clearheaded thinking.
Trust your aides. Vice President Daniels typically overrode anything contrary to his gut, and consequently got himself and the nation in deeper trouble. He did not listen to his top aide who consistently offered alternate points of view. Listening to people you trust may be instructive. It may provide information and even nuance that will help you make better decisions. At the same time, it is leaders who take stands and make decisions. The leaders are on the line, not aides.
Acknowledge your shortcomings. The Vice President admits his failings to his top aide who tries to buck him up. Still Daniels does not let himself off the hook; he owns up to his bad judgment and his failings. And he did not give up. That’s a lesson for managers in crisis can learn. Admit your missteps, but move forward. The world cannot, and will not, stop for you. You must move forward.
Lest we be too hard on the Vice President Daniels, in the final episode of the season, he proved himself capable and trustworthy. He kept open the channels of communication with the Russians thereby helping to avoid a retaliatory assault on a U.S. air base on the Russian border. And most importantly, the Republic was saved. The Vice President, in the space of less than one day, grew up in the job. He acknowledged his shortcomings but held himself together enough to make to the end of the show. And that’s a TV leadership lesson that works in real-life, too!