HBO’s original series The Newsroom has been by far my all time favorite TV Series. It has everything from life lesson, principles, team work, drama, down to bits here and there on lesson of management and leadership.
We often heard quotes about manager and leaders: “Manager is doing things the right way, leaders doing the right thing”
I would like an extension to that quote: Manager is doing things the right way, Leader is doing the right thing, Team is doing the right thing, the right way.” When we have great team and a great leader, right thing the right way is the ideal result of what can come out of them.
And in The Newsroom there are five interesting lessons that all of us can learned from
Note: These list are my personal interpretation on what I think the TV series is trying to say
1. State Your Beliefs
In the beginning of The Newsroom pilot episode, Will MacAvoy started the opening with his infamous monologue in the midst of University event, answering a simple yet hard to answer question from one of the students: “What makes America the greatest country in the world”
The leading actor answered with his long monologue, you can see here for complete version of the monologue.
I will share the core highlight of what he said:
"It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chests. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men, we aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior.
We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed, by great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore”
He stated what America used to stand for. Its values, principles on how it got them to where they were.
As a leader or manager, we need to set the tone on what kind of beliefs, DNA, purpose where you want your team to be. Having the right beliefs, understanding the consequence and share that belief across your team is the first step of accomplish great things together. Dysfunctional team or organizations start from unclear purpose. Even worse, not only you missed to inform or communicate those principles, but you don’t even have any. Common goals or principles give your team a sense of purpose. What success looks like. As a leader, you need to give them clear direction on description on what success look like.
On The Newsroom, Charlie Skinner, the News Division Director hired a seasoned Executive Producer, MacKenzie McHale. She gathered everyone in the team and shared them how things will be done under her leadership. Doing the right thing, the right way.
2. Assemble Your Core Team
A great leadership maxim i once read: “When it comes to assemble your team, only choose the faithful and the fruitful”
Faithful talks about character, the right people you can trust, and people who also trust and belief in your cause. Group of people who shared the same vision and mission.
Fruitful talks about capability, performance. Combine character and capability gives you great mix of what kind of team culture you want to build.
Charlie Skinner, MacKenzie McHale, and Will McAvoy decided they were going to rely on smart, young, in-experienced, right sets of value group of people to continue the culture to the rest of the team.
Every leader needs to be surrounded with smart people with great character. They are your floor general, quarterback, playmaker on game time day in and day out. They took direction well and able to not only communicate well but also execute things the right way.
3. Doing The Right Thing
Each of us will not be judged on how we handle success and happy time. Our character is tested in tough situation, and how we react will sets us apart from the average-ordinary people, or the difference maker.
In numerous scenes, The Newsroom team faced with tough situation where they have to make tough decision. I tweeted once on doing the right thing, often time comes when we pause, think what the majority would do, and we do the exact opposite. Doing the right thing, more often than not, is about taking the unpopular decision. Leader makes tough call and stands by it. If you have sets of value, principles, and beliefs from the beginning and placed them as the fundamental in your team, it makes things a little easier when tough time comes. Not having any will sway us left and right, and we let ourself determined by situation, instead of having the ability to have influence to alter the outcome
4. Do Not Settle, Do Not Compromise
At the season 2, the entire backdrop of the seasons talk about how the team screwed up on reporting a false story on US troops used Sarin Gas in one of their operations called “Genoa”. Long story short, one of their guest producer decided to alter an interview video to report on the news.
The news organization ACN faces lawsuit from that guest producer for wrongful termination and the News show lose its credibility for reporting such false accusation to US Military. They almost cave to the request, the senior leadership of the team submitted their resignation to clear the ACN news credibility and also settling to pay the guest producer.
On the final episode, the team and its owners decided that they will prevail, stands for their beliefs, and will not compromise for the lawsuit. The team was so close to dismiss themselves , leaving behind amazing group of people built by its leaders, and all its hard work on creating culture of excellence in journalism.
We should not settle. We should not compromise when it comes to attack on our very core beliefs. As with many things in business: product comes and go, but our people and the culture built stays. When we have right group of people powered with great culture, we should not settle for anything but success. Do not compromise on our process to get to success. I believe doing the right thing, the right way will bring us success. When we compromise our core beliefs just for short term win, we tarnish our hard work to nourish and nurture the culture, in exchange for small victory. Don’t settle, don’t compromise.
5. Stand By Your Team, No Matter What
When we commit as a team to do what’s right, there will be consequences. Because doing the uncommon thing invites critics, jeers, and challenges. It will be a lot easier for us to do what others do, but what makes us different from the rest? We will be just another average Joe, doing average thing. Perseverance and persistence will navigate us through tough times by sticking together and work hard.
I suggest you to look out for the copy of HBO’s The Newsroom. Watch every episode from Season One to Two. Not many TV series that teaches me so many lesson about life, work, leadership, and teamwork.