Who remembers “Saved by the Bell?” Who can ever forget it? Let’s take a moment to examine the ensemble of six (five if you count those weird episodes with Tori) and why the fearless leader, the incomparable Mr. Belding, was an unknowing role model for small organizations.
1) He was a friend
Mr. Belding made personal friends with Kelly, Jessie, Lisa, Zack, Slater, and Screech. While this isn’t always an effective leadership tool, it worked for the SBTB ensemble because of the environment they were in. He was easy to talk to, and was frequently confided in. The leader of an organization can apply this same principle (no pun intended) to his or her small staff. Are your employees in need of more guidance and support? Or are they generally self-sufficient and effective when allowed to be independent, like the teachers at Bayside High? Take a close look at your working relationships. If they can occasionally get a little personal, consider friendly conversation as a leadership tool.
2) He had been there
In the KKTY Tiger Radio episode, Mr. Belding revealed himself as “The Zack Morris of the ‘60s,” a title he was proud of as the former school DJ, Big Bopper Belding. The great thing here is that leaders are rarely born on top. Some of the best bosses I ever had were in the trenches with me once, and I love hearing about it. Even though the SBTB crew had their doubts about Big Bopper rocking out the school as a student, I bet you anything that little reality check from their principal that he was once a student just like them added to his credibility as an effective leader.
3) He was the boss
“Hey hey hey hey what is going on here?” Became the voice of “Uh oh, fun’s over” for an entire generation of Saturday morning TV-watchers. His is relentless with his discipline of Zack despite countless setbacks, enforcing everything from “cadet corps” to a “Mr. Rogers” type of guidance to whip that blonde boy into shape. The result is that Zack makes surprisingly great scores on his S.A.T. and goes on to college. Leaders have to be respected. You probably don’t need a signature catch phrase, but everyone knowing that you expect accountability is key.
4) He was always there
Mr. Belding was everywhere. When even Kelly and Jessie were inexplicably in and out of casting during the senior year, Belding was always popping out of his office with his signature high-pitched laugh. He lived in Illinois while Zack was in middle school, and then went on to reign over Bayside High in Southern California. He hung in there with the poorly-rated new class, and even took time out of his busy principal schedule to attend Zack and Kelly’s wedding in Vegas. When his principal travel group ran into the kids in Hawaii, he agreed to give up the huge luxury resort package they had booked to help out Kelly’s grandfather. Can you imagine a more steady influence in the lives of those kids? I mean their parents weren’t even around that much. In a small group, every staffer is critical. If any of them, especially the leader, aren’t consistent then the group can easily fall to pieces.
5) He rolled with the punches
High school, like any personal or professional battlefield, is in a constant state of flux. Mr. Belding handled the wacky antics of his students, but also markedly dramatic goings-in around Bayside like frequent student protests and even the discovery of oil on campus. (Seriously, who’s high school experience was half as dramatic?) His staff of teachers was constantly changing and rarely seen, yet the student body was apparently successful, college bound, and involved with Bayside life. Of course there seemed to only 20 students total in the whole school, so that may have helped.
It’s a common misconception that managing a smaller staff is easier than large one, but that’s simply not true. The next time you’re in a meeting with four or five faces staring at you, think to yourself, “What would Belding do?”