Why I’d love to have Rodrigo De Souza as my boss

Sometimes it takes a character on TV to show us what a good boss looks like…

Yes, I love this character so much I made an infographic about him

Yes, I love this character so much I made an infographic about him

Pardon me if I don’t write the same obligatory post about another year passing. I choose to reflect at more convenient times.

Some of us are lucky to have worked for a manager or boss who has either nurtured us or been masters at guiding us to do our best work. A privileged few of us have even worked with bosses or leaders that had a vision that tied their group’s goals to their mission. This vision and mission doesn’t have to take the form of some grandiose plan with fanfare. Sometimes the manager simply states their goals clearly and keeps their team focused on the task or tasks at hand. Some managers gather their team in a huddle that resembles one before the big game. Other managers provide brief, but authentic individual verbal messages of encouragement. These are all tools that help build and grow employees and keep them motivated.

And for yet others, like myself, motivation may need to come from other sources like having the opportunity to leverage my skills or talents in opportunities where growth is possible. For many, regardless of their age, having someone recognize that they have potential can be the rocket fuel that gets them going. It got me thinking: great managers help employees truly grow.

I recently started watching the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle,” and I must confess, I’m in love with this series. The characters are great, and it’s a peek into the harrowing and difficult working world of the arts, but more than that I see encouraging messages about leading and developing others. In all of the TV and film I’ve been absorbing over the past year, I’ve been cued into examples of excellent leadership and management in film. Some people focus on models of cars or maybe specific shooting locations to see if they’ve actually been there, but me, I look for examples of great management or teamwork. “Mozart” is set in contemporary NY and it’s based on the memoirs of an oboe player for the New York Philharmonic. Her character in the series is young Hailey Rutledge. She is hired at the insistence of the young and promising maestro, Rodrigo, who insists that Hailey may not be experienced, but she plays the Oboe “with blood” (passion) and that she has within her great possibility & potential.

Rodrigo is eccentric and can be seen by the more methodical characters on the cast as capricious and erratic, but he has a vision of how he wants the orchestra to play and obviously wants them to feel as much passion for the work they perform as he does, but there’s something more than charming about this character who chooses not to bask in his fame but play the everyday dude meandering through the city, engaging with a chess game or simply hanging on a park bench. He hears music in the traffic or percussive rhythms in the motion of a car moving over the bumps on a bridge. He shares this with Hailey. But he’s also human and realizes this. Later in series you’re exposed to some of his weaknesses, but he appears to be aware of them and asks for help when needed from Hailey and others. He knows where his limits are when it comes to strutting at fundraising events and he make this clear to his boss, Gloria, the orchestra director and patron played by Bernadette Peters.

After binge watching a few episodes, I realized Rodrigo would make an excellent boss. Sure he’s a little quirky, but one can deal with eccentricity and even outbursts if they felt that their boss was dedicated and passionate about the work. If this boss demonstrated some authenticity around wanting to learn and helping guide us to get things done right, it make the job a little easier to focus on. I suppose that’s a true example of leadership in action.

Now, I can hear a skeptic scratching at the corner of my head saying, “Sure that’s fine for people who are passionate about art and music to get inspired about playing Mahler superbly, but we work with HR databases, or sell spark plugs, toilets, or work customer service in IT, etc. How am I supposed to get inspired by that?” Honestly, I’ve asked that question before and I’ve worked in different industries, for which I felt varying levels of commitment, but in the end my happiness at a job came down to three things:

  • Did I feel like my talents and skills were being leveraged well? Did I feel some level of success at doing these things?
  • Did I get recognized for my work (including, occasionally, those things I felt passion for)?
  • Was I getting paid enough to meet the needs of my family?

I could be focusing on how to optimize screwing lids on glue jars, but as long as any of these three conditions above were being met, I was engaged and satisfied with my work.  I’ve worked with kind managers, firm, nurturing ones, and those who always led by setting a good example, but the managers I felt closest to were ones who had a passion outside of work that wasn’t necessarily related to work at all, and people who did things outside of their family lives, maybe with their families, but they had lives and interests outside of work, sometimes they shared these passions with us… like Rodrigo.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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