Tune in to WOW Leadership: Lessons from America’s favorite shows [Book Review]

Tune in to WOW Leadership: Lessons from America’s favorite shows [Book Review]

How would you like to have Steve McGarrett as your boss, or Jean-Luc Picard? What about Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation or Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS?

Tune in to WowTV bosses have been making us laugh, cringe and take note since the golden age and though times have changed, some bosses haven’t. The real world is still full of penny-pinchers like Milburn Drysdale and misogynistic men like Lou Grant. But TV has also given us examples of bosses to be admired and emulated, too. Bosses who respect their employees, don’t abuse their authority and remain positive in the face of adversity.

Sheri Staak calls these WOW leaders in her book Tune in to WOW Leadership: 10 Lessons Learned from America’s Favorite Shows. I asked to review the book because it lands squarely on the intersection of two things I like talking about; TV and business and the publisher was kind enough to send me a copy for free.

The book covers leadership topics such as ‘Being Authentic’, ‘Empowering Life/Work Balance” and ‘Cultivating Respect’. Staak also includes several chapters on communication; discussing when an email beats a call or a face-to-face meet. The book is loaded with plenty of good advice for young entrepreneurs or old school bosses who need a modern, management refresher.

Unfortunately, the TV side of the book doesn’t work as well. I expected the book to be set up by show, with lessons to be learned from the show’s fictional boss. Instead, Staak inserts TV examples into each business themed chapter as a way of illustrating her points. Often, the examples are a stretch, which left me feeling like the TV hook was just a gimmick to help sell the book.

Let’s Play Good Boss, Bad Boss

Gilligans IslandFor example, she uses The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island as an example of positivity in the workplace. Really? A man who constantly questions the intelligence of his second in command in front of the clients and routinely hits the younger man with his hat? The Skipper is not my idea of an ideal boss. She also references an episode of The Mentalist with a CEO who kills to avoid a sexual harassment suit as an example of how not to be selfish in the workplace. Really?

There are plenty of examples of TV leaders who are worth emulating; like the motivating Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights; the approachable decision maker Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica and the cool under fire Frank Furillo of Hill Street Blues.

My biggest problem with the book is the use of the word WOW on every page. Written in all caps, it feels like an acronym for something but it’s just the word Staak chose to represent those leaders who stand out (the opposite to DUD leaders). And since the WOW has nothing to do with TV – it felt like two books crammed into one.

For a young entrepreneur looking to take the reigns of a company, “Tune in to WOW” is a good read. It’s written in a conversational style that makes it easy to understand, with concepts you can absorb and put to work right away. As a leadership primer – it does the job.

As a book about good and bad leaders on TV, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Unlike Sheldon Cooper, I’m completely open to other opinions, so check the book out for yourself and let me know what you think. You’ll find Tune in to WOW Leadership at Amazon.com.

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