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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Defenders – Leadership Training?


Last night I watched a new show - “The Defenders” - about a couple of Las Vegas attorneys who are part Robin Hood and part con artist. The show was quite entertaining, but led me to think about its role as a leadership lab for us viewers to learn from.

Here's the four themes running through the first episode:

Nick & Pete interacting – two rather cynical guys practicing law together. Informal leadership bounces between them freely, although Nick is the senior partner. They freely debate what to do but back the other's play once an action is decided. There's a mixture of unimpressive and wiz-bang – transportation is an old classic auto – like a Chevy II convertible however they advertise the firm (and the two of them) on a huge billboard using a vinyl sign (new technology).

Nick and his wife – they are separated but it is clear - they would both like to be back together AND they can't figure out how...and make things worse. This bitter-sweet relationship is entertaining only because you can quickly see how the conversation will turn out even in its early stages.

Pete and the junior associate – he bamboozles the new junior associate into covering an arraignment, and then abandons her to do it. Later they talk (she was yelling) and he shares a story of his first day and how he was thrown to the lions – but also was victorious. While she was skeptical, he continued with how this proved to be a strong foundation for a successful practice and pointed out that she was successful in her first assignment and cataloged how far she had come. Was he sincere or was he 'spinning a tale'? The new associate came away with confidence in her ability and led her to suggest what became a break in their case.

Gutsy approach to case resolution – the two of them pull all the stops to get the outcome they want. Their client was in a jury trial for murder and the jury asked for guidance from the judge, who was going to give instruction on a lesser charge, but Nick got the judge so mad at him that he ended up refusing to give the instruction and their client was found not guilty.

Each of these themes is pretty simple but should give rich material for the season. After all, the Star Trek programs in the different iterations and movies went on for 30+ years on a very simple premise: Gene Roddenberry had a social conscience and incorporated various issues in the programs around the constant tension between the need for humans to meddle and the Prime Directive which prohibited meddling.

Both shows are useful for leadership labs to see how situations develop and what we can learn from them, And with The Defenders, some entertainment for Wednesday evenings.
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