Leadership

TV's Best Business Lessons

You can actually learn a lot about running a business from many of the shows in this golden age of television. We pick the top entrepreneurial lessons from 2013 Emmy nominees

Written by Deborah Aarts

If critics and pundits are to be believed, we’re currently in a golden age of television. Yes, there’s a lot of garbage on the airwaves, but there is also a remarkably deep pool of programs featuring complex characters, sophisticated storytelling and unbeatable entertainment value.

On Sept. 22, the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards will honour the best and brightest in TV. Regardless of what you think of the nominees—maybe you’re outraged that your favourite didn’t make the cut—the there’s no denying that there’s a lot of talent in contention. And an awful lot of the nominated shows depict lessons that apply to running a business.

Take Homeland (up for 11 nominations, including outstanding drama series). Bipolar CIA officer Carrie Mathison, (played by Claire Danes, up for outstanding lead actress in a drama), is a manager’s conundrum: an extremely high performer who uses increasingly unconventional means to get ahead. Mismanagement on the part of her employers has had pretty dire consequences for Carrie (and the plot as a whole).

The seemingly genteel period piece Downton Abbey (up for 12 nominations) serves as an effective warning about the dangers of neglecting the succession plan.

Even the comedy categories can instruct: the pratfalls of workaholic city councillor Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler, up for outstanding lead actress in a comedy) in the sitcom Parks and Recreation warn against micromanagement; the increasingly surreal marketing blunders by real estate agent Phil Dunphy (played by Ty Burrell, up for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy) in Modern Family mark the importance of effective branding; the hilarious struggles of strident TV showrunner Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey, up for outstanding lead actress in a comedy) on 30 Rock illustrate how hard it is to achieve work/life balance.

And then there are the shows that offer a lot more business instruction. Over the past few months, PROFIT has culled the best entrepreneurial lessons from some of the top shows on television. Here are our four favourites.

1. Mad Men

The slow-burning AMC critical darling set at an ad agency in 1960s Manhattan (up for 12 awards, including outstanding drama) can teach you a lot about running a functional firm today. Check out Mad Men’s 9 Lessons for Entrepreneurs.

2. The Office

The ultra-popular faux-documentary sitcom about Scranton paper distributor (up for three awards) features a workforce that can most charitably described as dysfunctional. Find out how to manage talented slacker (Jim), the entitled Gen Yer (Kelly) and the total weirdo (Creed) in these 11 Staff-Management Tips from The Office.

3. Breaking Bad

The complicated meth magnate that serves as the protagonist of this AMC cult hit (up for 13 awards, including outstanding drama) can definitely be considered an entrepreneur. Exactly how good he is at it is certainly open for discussion. Read Walter White’s 6 Business Mistakes for more.

4. Game of Thrones

The ultra-popular series that is arguably responsible for nerd culture going mainstream (up for 16 awards) serves as an allegory for business principles at their most ruthless. Brush up on some Leadership Lessons from Game of Thrones.

What did we miss? What business lessons do you take away from your favourite TV shows, past and present? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com