Management lessons from Jack Donaghy

21 Jul

There’s little discussion on the interweb, it seems, on the management style of 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy. (Not using my impatient Wednesday google-fu, anyway.)

This is kind of shocking to me.

I mean, there’s so much to love about the man! And hate! But mostly love. If you are Liz Lemon.

So as I wrap up the last few weeks of my MBA degree, I would like to reflect on a few lessons I’ve learned from Jack through the seasons of 30 Rock episodes I’ve played in the background as I mind-numbingly format power point presentations or plug formulas into excel, wishing that I worked for NBC (so I could eat the Sno-cone cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery around the corner every day).

Jack looks so sassy and jaunty here. I think it's the graceful hand-on-hip.

1. Care about your people – who they are and what they do.

I learned this lesson in one of my MBA leadership classes and I think Jack does a decent job here. He truly wants to be involved in Liz’s life both at work and outside work. He is concerned about Liz’s single life. He is interested in meeting her family when they come to visit. And he doles out advice to Liz on how she should manage her subordinates ONLY when she comes to him for help, like any effective coach should. His door is open to her. AND he helped Liz get her own talk show when he saw it was something she might be good at. (So what if it didn’t work out?)

Okay. Maybe it was kind of shitty that he pretended to be in love with her because he couldn’t handle sharing the new cast member with her, but the new cast member was just a fling who touched the back of her knees a lot. And maybe he doesn’t care about his personal assistant Jonathan. Or Lutz. But nobody cares about Lutz.

Love Will Arnett. So. Much.

2. Be afraid of the man who hates to lose, not the man who loves to win.

Full disclosure: I stole this lesson from my entrepreneurship professor. But I think it applies to Jack. He thrives in crisis mode. He’s a man who loves to win, surely, but he hates to lose a million times more. Look at his feud with Devon! That thing got ugly so quickly. And so sparkly. And shiny. And unicorny. Thanks to Kathy Geiss. (This lesson/mindset also applies to Devon, obviously.)

I have no clever caption for these hands. I just want to touch them, put them inside my hands, and perhaps make them clap.

3. You are your brand. Manage it well and be consistent about your message.

When Jack left a drunken answering machine message to now ex-girlfriend Nancy, he knew that the right thing to do was break into her house with Kenneth to delete it. Jack asks Liz for advice on what picture best represents him before that big Six Sigma retreat thingee where Liz did the ‘bra lady went crazy’ dance to distract from the broadcast of Jack calling himself a turd backstage. When he had a heart attack, he hid it from everyone because he knew it was a sign of weakness. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit here. But you get the point.)

I'm always a sucker for a miniature, especially in fun-cooker format.

4. Innovent.

Jack is dedicated to the idea that anything can be improved, revised, improvised, revolutionized. Yeah, maybe it sounds a bit pointless to change things that don’t obviously need revolutionizing. But he understands that the status quo needs to challenged otherwise there will never be growth, efficiency or any of those other great positive business-y things. No drive to innovent = complacency.

Some MBAers would argue that Jack D has too much love for Jack W

5. You CAN bounce back from your mistakes, as long as you admit them and show you’ve learned something from them.

When Jack messed up with that whole fireworks presentation in downtown Manhattan thing, he didn’t let it get him down. He built a strategy to get his life back. When Devon (I mean Kathy Geiss) stepped into the big position Jack wanted and then Devin pushed Jack out of the organization, Jack was willing to start at the bottom all over again and work in the mailroom. He’s persistent, and some of the time, humble. Another nice quality in a leader, which I learned in my leadership class last semester.

When I did a Jack Donaghy google search, this kitten came up.

I am not suggesting Jack Donaghy is flawless. Or even the most amazing manager ever. But he’s someone that I would probably be pretty happy to work for one day if I ended up being in the same position as Liz Lemon. And as awesome/not awesome as Liz. If I ended up being in the same position as Jonathan or Kenneth, however? Probably not so happy.


One Response to “Management lessons from Jack Donaghy”


  1. New obsession: The Daily Stat « New New New Blog - July 30, 2010

    […] management tips, but if you want to be a better manager you should just keep reading my post on Jack Donaghy’s management skillz over and over […]

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