Seinfeld is a great comedy show from the 90s that is known for its observational humor and the absurd situations that the group of four friends find themselves in. The show was hugely popular when it first aired and today finds itself in a new renaissance thanks to the popularity of streaming.
What leadership lessons can be learned from a show that claims itself to be a show about nothing and includes amazing leadership quotes like, “It’s not a lie if you (yourself) believe it.”
Be confident and own who you are
Jerry Seinfeld, the main character and stand-up comedian, is often seen as the voice of reason and sanity among his friends. He is there to be a listening ear and they bust through his apartment door unannounced. He’s also confident and authentic in his style and personality; he’s not pretending to be someone he is not.
Jerry reminds us that we need to be comfortable in our own skin. Avoid the trap of trying to change who you are to gain the affection and attention of others. It’s a facade that is not easy to keep up and you’ll only find yourself less happy and fulfilled as a result. Being confident in yourself also gives you the space to express your opinions and insight, which Jerry was certainly an expert at.
Learn from the mistakes that you make
George Costanza, Jerry’s best friend is…… a loser. Some of the most memorable moments of the show center around George and how disastrous he is in life and the ability to make the right choice. George is insecure, dishonest, lazy, and selfish, and sabotages himself more than anyone he encounters. If there is something positive to be said about George, it’s that he is resilient. He is willing to try new things, experiment with different strategies, and learn from his mistakes and failures. (Sometimes just to turn around and make another new mistake.)
Everybody makes mistakes, hopefully, a little less than George, but it’s a part of our regular path to personal and professional growth. Be open to feedback, criticism, and change, and use them as opportunities for your own growth and improvement. Mistakes hold value too if you are willing to take the lessons that they teach. As you reflect on a recent mistake, what is the lesson learned and how could you be resourceful to come to a different conclusion the next time the situation presents itself?
Keep things in perspective and enjoy the funny things in life
Elaine Benes, Jerry’s ex-girlfriend, and friend, is a smart, independent, and successful woman. She is also incredibly witty, sarcastic, and humorous, often making fun of herself and others. She doesn’t take herself or life too seriously and knows how to have fun and enjoy the moment. Perhaps the most memorable example of this is the famous Elanie Dance where she dances so horribly that George describes it as a “full body dry heave set to music.”
Having the right perspective, and understanding of the larger context is important in both leadership and life, so you don’t overreact or underreact to everyday challenges. Be willing to laugh at yourself and the situation that you might find yourself in. For more information on this pairing, check out Humor (PTB 44) and Finding Perspective (PTB 111).
Sometimes you have to deal with the weirdos
Cosmos Kramer. What a name and character. He always came bursting through Jerry’s door like an out-of-control washing machine shaking and bouncing from an uneven load of laundry. Kramer was full-on weird, but often stole the scenes that he was in and somehow became a friend in Jerry’s small inner circle. Jerry didn’t have much of a choice but to deal with and interact with Kramer. Even if he kept the apartment locked at all times, Kramer lived across the hall, so no doubt he would still have run-ins and interactions with him.
It is guaranteed that you are going to have people that you would consider weird and out there come across your path, both at work and in your personal life. Regardless of the situation, treat them with the respect and friendliness that you give to others. Even though Jerry could have been dismissive and rude to Kramer, he chose to listen to him and go along with his crazy line of thoughts. In the real world, you may be making a mighty impact on the other person, because there is a chance that you are the only one that shows them any respect and attention at all.
Jerry’s circle of friends is an unlikely group that found themselves together. Be true to yourself, embrace and own your mistakes, keep it in perspective, and care for the weirdos in your life. You’ll be a better leader and friend as a result.
Make a better tomorrow.