3 Traits That Make Michael Scott a Great Leader

October 2, 2019
Author: Tyran Saffold Jr

Most people are familiar with the Emmy-winning sitcom, “The Office”. The sitcom featured Michael Scott, Regional Manager at Dunder-Mifflin, a fictional paper company. During the pilot, his office was on the verge of being downsized. But, by the time he left, he ran the most successful branch in the company. From the outside, Michael Scott appears to be unfit. But a closer look at Dunder-Mifflin’s regional manager reveals the blueprint of a true leader.

So, what makes Michael Scott a great leader?

Tapping into Leadership Skills, the Michael Scott Way

Michael Scott Leadership Trait #1: His Employees Are His Family

For managers, few things are more important than building a rapport with your employees. Michael Scott takes it a step further. His employees are his family.
In a first season episode, Michael Scott noticed something about one of his employees during the office Christmas party. Meredith had been drinking a lot. When he spoke to a few other employees about it, they filled him in more. Meredith had a serious drinking problem. Shortly after, she unknowingly set her hair on fire while dancing.

Michael Scott rushes into action and extinguishes the fire. From there, he immediately stops the party and calls for an office intervention to help Meredith. Although his timing wasn’t optimal, he wanted nothing more for than Meredith to be okay.

Again, Michael Scott has an odd way of handling things, but what it boils down to is—he cares. He stopped the office party and immediately addressed a problem with his employees. He is emotionally vested in their well-being. He doesn’t want to see them hurt or shoulder burdens they weren’t meant to carry. On many occasions, he shielded the team from bad news as he worked behind the scenes to fix the problem.

By the end of his tenure at Dunder-Mifflin, there was not an employee that he didn’t know inside out. In the same breath, there was not an employee who wasn’t devastated that he decided to leave. In an office of no more than twenty people, it resembles the beginning of a start-up. There is no reason why a small business owner shouldn’t know his or her employees personally. That is how you build culture. That is how you drive engagement.

Michael Scott Leadership Trait #2: He Knows How to Keep Employees Engaged

According to a Gallup report, businesses with engaged teams show:

  • Reduced turnover
  • Higher customer ratings
  • Greater profitability
  • Higher productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism

During Michael Scott’s tenure at Dunder-Mifflin, not one employee quit. Not one was fired. Every employee performed at, or above peak level. This had to happen for the paper company to go from sinking to sailing from the time he entered to the time he left. Why were his employees performing so well? He kept them engaged.

In one episode, Mr. Scott challenges the warehouse workers to a game of basketball against his office employees. On top of it all, he allows the game to happen during work hours. Who doesn’t like to get paid while having a little fun?
Michael Scott understands what it takes to keep his employees engaged.

A leader that rules with an iron fist will be hard pressed to demonstrate good business culture. At times, it may be called for. But, if the iron fist is the only thing you show, it will drive your employees away. For successful businesses, there must be a balance between work and play. As a leader, it is your job to find it.

Michael Scott Leadership Trait #3: His Office Door is Always Open

There was never a moment that Michael Scott’s employees could not come talk to him. He always made himself visible and approachable. Unless he was in a meeting, his door was open. In the same likeness, many companies have adopted open workspace environments. It fosters collaboration between employees but that is not all. It makes the leadership team accessible in the same way an open door would.

Leaders who are easily approachable, for any variety of reasons, break down barriers for their employees. The intimidation factor is no longer an issue as employees interact with leadership daily.

Michael Scott unintentionally provides a blueprint for what a good boss should look like. He took a failing paper company and took it to its apex during his 7-year tenure. Talks for a potential reboot to the show are in progress, but it may go on without Mr. Scott. He isn’t interested. One thing is for sure, his shoes will be hard to fill. Although it may look like he was doing everything wrong, the reality is—he did everything right.