You may never have thought of Mr. Bean and leadership at the same time before, but let's take another look to see if he can show us any insights.

What can a fictional man-child from another planet show us that emulates the qualities of a leader?

Predicaments and Prejudices
We see Mr. Bean in some outwardly impossible situations. In fact we see him get into those situations through what appears to be a sequence of impossible events. But he gets into them nonetheless. Why are they impossible? Just because we know better, or know of better ways of handling a given situation than his character does. But while many of us would not choose to follow Mr. Bean into these situations, he proceeds to get out of them using some very important and powerful leadership traits which we will investigate.

Mr. Bean, the character has been placed into an alien environment and much of the antics draw amusement from this displacement. But how many times are we put into situations where the solution to a need is not obvious? That is always the case with most major problems we face as a society today. How many times do we keep offering what we 'know' as a solution instead of finding solutions that actually work?

One could argue that our prejudices - political and otherwise - stop us from being truly inquisitive in finding solutions that work. Mr. Bean is not tethered by prejudice or 'knowledge'. He just learns more about himself and his surroundings and gets the problem solved. His inquisitiveness, observation and determination find solutions that work, even if not elegantly at first. These are fine traits we should emulate and start solving some of our seemingly intractible problems.

The Need to Lead
Mr.Bean has one benefit over those of us that lead, or those that plan to lead. He is alone and does not get into situations where he needs others to help substantially. For us to be effective we need to communicate, motivate, inspire, challenge and reward others. We need to enrol others into our ideas and visions and encourage them to help us along the way. Mr. Bean has no apparent need to lead, and if he did, some considerable work on interpersonal skills and communication would be essential.

When we come up with novel ideas for solutions, are we not regarded in much the same way as the other characters deal with Mr. Bean in the show? Are we not laughed at, derided, ridiculed and sometimes just avoided and left alone? This, however, is exactly the point where we need to press ahead, find others who can see what we see and discover what is achievable.

The Power of Humour
Humour itself, in coaching and mentoring for leadership or problem solving, is often an excellent way to give negative or dissenting feedback in a respectful but poignant way. If you have a young leader who needs guidance about a trait they have that is detracting from their performance you can express it with humour and soften the blow while still getting the message across - perhaps more effectivley than delivering just another piece of feedback. It's best not to overdo its' use otherwise it might appear cynical to the receiver.

What does Mr. Bean do that a leader would too?
  • he clearly knows what he wants, sets out to get it, even if he can't express it in ways others would understand at first
  • he finds novel and makeshift solutions to problems we might solve a little differently
  • he tinkers and investigates until he can achieve his goal in ways the rest of us would not usually see
  • he is sometimes embarrassed by the situation he gets himself into, but doggedly perseveres regardless of what others think, say or do
  • he is observant and tuned into to what surrounds him that might be used to solve his predicament
  • he learns quickly and develops his understanding continuously
We can therefore see some leadership traits worthy of our attention, but not enough to choose to follow. He would not be a great leader for us as we would find it hard to communicate with him, but on his own planet, maybe so?

Get out those DVDs, or stream a rerun of "Mr. Bean" and take a look from a different perspective. You will see what we mean - if, that is, you can hold back the laughter or cringes of embarrasment over his antics.



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Published in Thought Leadership