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Jackie Gleason’s leadership follies

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Most of us have had bosses so insecure that they could never let their employees succeed.

Jack Winter was such a guy. Fresh out of college, he found himself in Miami Beach on a venerable staff of comedy writers because TV celebrity Jackie Gleason had picked some of his material. As it turned out, Winter didn’t understand Gleason’s humor. What’s worse, Gleason turned out to be a tyrant.

Luckily, Winter went on to write for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Odd Couple” and movies. Luckily for us, we can use his memories to become better leaders. Some of Winter’s wonders:
  • Avoid stealing someone’s idea and then saying you “saved” the situation.

  • Check your values. Gleason based much of his humor on alcohol and, in “The Honeymooners,” on meanness to his wry and reliable wife, Alice.

  • Don’t taunt your betters. Gleason once told a writer: “I could go into a broom closet for 30 seconds and come out with something better than that.”

    “Hey, Jack,” the writer shot back. “Why don’t you stay in there for an hour, and we’ll have the whole season licked?”

  • Maintain your perspective. Gleason once went ballistic over a bad review in a Miami “shopper” newspaper.

  • Don’t make people gauge your mood before talking to you. You’ll never get the scoop.

  • Discard the myth that creative people work best under pressure. They don’t. Anxious, cloudy minds find it difficult to operate in high gear.

  • Reward good work. “There’s only one time that Jackie is tougher on the writers than when things are going badly,” one veteran writer explained, “and that’s when they’re going well.”
— Adapted from “How Sweet It Wasn’t,” Jack Winter, The Atlantic Monthly.

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