I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

Search This Blog

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How James Heller Became President

He is not a real President of course. But as I watched the "24" season finale I learned much about what makes a person the kind of leader people would give their lives for.

Heller is not a technical expert. He's not a military guy. He isn't aggressive. In fact he's losing his mind to Alzheimer's. But he has the people's loyalty anyway. Here's why:

1) He delegates.

Heller does not pretend to know Jack Bauer's tradecraft (the ins and outs of being a one-man SWAT team). He isn't military. He doesn't know computers. He trusts people to do their jobs.

2) He doesn't play favorites.

His chief of staff was married to his daughter. But when he confessed to an unforgivable crime, Heller had him arrested for treason.

3) He knows when to cede power.

When Bauer does well he gives him unlimited authority, to the point where he allows Jack to overrule him at one point - it doesn't matter if Heller is the president, Jack knows what to do and must be listened to.

4) He makes difficult decisions in a timely manner.

On the show China mistakenly believes that America has attacked it. He begs China not to retaliate. But he doesn't dilly-dally over a response, emphasizing that if China does do that, "We will fight."

5) He collaborates genuinely.

Heller works with the Prime Minister of England to catch the terrorists, giving him full access to America's intelligence even when this makes the military nervous.

6) He has his priorities in order.

Heller knows that he is going to be shamed when the Alzheimer's takes over. But that is not his main concern. He focuses on taking care of his country and his daughter.

7) He is concerned without being controlling.

He asks his daughter how her marriage is going in a way that suggests he knows something is wrong. But he doesn't push her to talk about it if she doesn't want to.

8) He is engaged.

In every scene, Heller is in the situation room, in front of the monitor, asking questions. He may not know everything but he shows that it's important enough for him to try.

9) He shows the appropriate range of emotion - in front of his staff.

When Heller is surprised that the terrorist Chang is alive and not dead, he shows the surprise and doesn't pretend that he knew it already. When his chief of staff forges his signature to get Jack killed, he shows anger. And when he gets the news of his daughter's death, he stumbles and faints in agony.

10) He throws himself under the bus rather than others.

Heller goes to a football stadium prepared to get blown up rather than have innocent civilians die in a terrorist attack.

* All opinions my own.