Whether you love him or hate him, Dr Who has a cult following and there are three leadership lessons the Dr reminds us of week after week. Yesterday’s 50th Anniversary episode The Day of The Doctor was no exception, action and comedy packed, on a backdrop of low tech (vs expensive CGI) sets with drama underpinned by the musical score – love those violins. Even with a high production quality 3D episode the writers and producers managed to keep the show true to it’s roots, cheesy at times but somehow magical. NB This blog contains no episode spoilers.

Every Dr Who episode follows the same basic format – the Dr has a companion, the Dr travels somewhere in space or time in the Tardis, strange and intriguing events are happening in this new and exciting location, the Dr meets a local who works with him (and his companion) to investigate these strange and intriguing events, the events are usually caused by an alien race (alien to the place or time this episode is set in) and you guessed it the Dr / his companion / the local advocate enjoy near death adventures leading towards a climatic scene involving the Tardis, the screwdriver and some innovation the Dr invented within the last heated seconds (to coin a local Kiwi term “#8 wire”) to overcome the aliens – or make peace with them as is often the outcome.

Through following this same format we are reminded nicely of the success consistency of processes brings and the wisdom of Aristotle “We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence then is not an act but a habit“. Long term loyal viewers are regularly rewarded with long forgotten plot lines and former characters, while transient viewers can engage with this formula for a single or small run of episodes. Honestly I think the writers and producers are brilliant for taking the basics of a successful business formula and keeping it running, increasing it’s market share and success for 50 years.

Which brings us nicely back to 3 leadership lessons from The Doctor:

  1. Never shy away from a challenge – in every single episode the Doctor confronts a challenge that always appears to be impossible to resolve or overcome. Faced with the impossible under the pressure of time, and usually imminent doom, where the consequences of that doom will seldom impact the doctor himself, he steps into the role of leader assuming responsibility for those he is hoping to save. In short the Dr never ever gives up until the challenge is solved.
  2. Always assess the situation and adapt before taking action – a classic situational leader Dr Who assess the environment he finds himself in, painting a picture for his companion describing the time, place, context, history and political nuances (so we the viewer can understand the situation as well). He quickly identifies the key stakeholders – even those in disguise – and applies diplomacy and empathy to his engagement with victims and aggressors alike, before taking assertive yet appropriate action.
  3. There is always time for fun while you work – no matter how dire the situation, how much pressure the team is under Dr Who finds a way to lighten the situation, play a tiny prank on his companion or make a joke at the alien protagonists expense. As happens in a normal workplace the reaction of others varies and occasionally his attempt to lighten the situation backfires which is when The Dr will happily laugh at himself and return to the situation in hand.

Fan or not I hope you can identify with these lessons. The only question left to ask now is – who is your favourite Doctor?

Enjoy Vic.