Mad Men and Managing

Don DraperWe’re wary of using pop culture references to make management points. When you do that, even with pieces of pop culture that are, in part about business and management, like the television series Mad Men, you usually get articles about how to become better managers from thinking hard about a television show, or, laughably, something like this.

But let’s stick with Mad Men for a second. It’s a show about work and one of the things it shows is how people are passionate about that work. In this past weekend’s final episode, which even one of the smartest management thinkers we know is raving about, the show’s star tries to convince his boss to come along with him on a new endeavor. He says:

“I’m sick of getting batted around like a ping pong ball. Who the hell is in charge, a bunch of accountants trying to turn a dollar into a dollar ten? I want to work. I want to build something of my own, how do you not understand that?”

This is art, not real life, so let’s not go overboard on drawing management lessons from a few lines of TV dialogue. But he has a point. He wants to work. He wants to build something. That’s a good pair of goals for any manager, real or fictional.

P.S. We can’t find an embeddable clip of Draper saying those words. Please let us know if you see one.