5 Leadership Lessons from Warehouse 13

by Sharlyn Lauby on November 13, 2012

Mr. Bartender and I enjoy the Syfy show “Warehouse 13”. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s about two U.S. Secret Service agents who have been assigned to a warehouse containing supernatural artifacts. The “artifacts” are connected to some sort of historical or mythological figure or event. For example, Lewis Carroll’s looking glass or Edgar Allan Poe’s pen. The artifacts can make people do weird and sometimes deadly stuff…so the agents are in charge of collecting the artifacts and keeping them safe in the warehouse.

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Over the years of watching the show for purely entertainment purposes, I’ve realized there are a few leadership lessons you can also take away.

  1. Leaders need to provide their team with a core mission. High performing teams need a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). On “Warehouse 13”, they have a singular mission to “snag, bag, and tag artifacts”. It keeps them focused and, therefore, successful.
  2. Leaders should be approachable. The agent in charge of the warehouse, Artie, has a bit of a curmudgeon personality. He’s there but not always in the moment with the other agents. As such, it gets him and other team members in trouble because he hears about issues after they’ve escalated to problems. Versus hearing about a potential problem and dealing with it proactively.
  3. Sometimes leaders need to trust their instinct. I’m not saying throw data out the window. But like Agent Pete’s “vibes” or Agent Steve’s ability to know if people are lying, sometimes we have to listen to our gut. In those moments, we might allow our gut to tell us to do more research in order to feel comfortable with a decision or situation.
  4. Leaders don’t always have to be early adopters. The key is to be effective. On the show, the agents communicate with a decades-old piece of equipment called a “Farnsworth” device. It’s sort of a steampunk videophone. It works for them. On the other hand, they have very advanced computer equipment. It’s all about using the right tools for the right job.
  5. Leaders are always grooming their replacement. This latest season brought a new dynamic. Mrs. Frederic, the older wise director of the warehouse program, is beginning to teach Agent Claudia, the young techno-wiz of the warehouse, about her role and how artifacts are made.

Leadership exists everywhere. Even in our favorite television programs.

Anyone else out there watch Warehouse 13? It’s a fun, quirky show. I like the blend of history with science fiction.

Image courtesy of Syfy

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