Cheering for Underdog Leadership

 In Leadership, Leadership Development, Presence

Leadership rarely starts easy. Yet something in all of us wants to believe in the magic of overnight success without all of the hard work and often failure that’s part of the process.

That’s probably why I am so drawn to Lloyd, a character on the HBO series, Entourage. When the season premier opened this week, I watched Lloyd struggling, as usual, as personal assistant in the Miller Gold Agency. He’s really the classic underdog in this ad agency setting. And he’s hardly the most dynamic—or successful—character on the show.

Lloyd plays account executive Ari Gold’s lowly phone-answering assistant. But man, oh man, he is a character — and a loveable one at that. You watch Lloyd kind of like you’d watch a train wreck. You wince, but just can’t force yourself to look away.

So what leadership did I see Lloyd demonstrate so powerfully on the show?

It’s pretty remarkable. He took a stand for himself by publicly confronting Ari about a long sought after promotion. When Ari challenges him in the moment that he will “not be strong armed,” Lloyd doesn’t just persist, he inspires by standing up brilliantly to his arrogant, ruthless, demeaning boss.

Suffice it to say, like the rest of us, Ari Gold was speechless.

God, how many times have you had thoughts like Lloyd’s diatribe that you’ve quietly fantasized over in the heat of the moment? But you just didn’t have the nerve (or the luxury of losing your job!) to deliver them? Well, Lloyd breathed a final chance at his long desired promotion. He had the passion, commitment and gravitas to deliver—and survive—at least for the moment, seemingly unscathed.

True, Ari’s next move is a cruel challenge to endure what amounts to a 100 day “hazing”—beginning with a cold directive to drop 15 pounds. Yet Lloyd took it like the leader he is.

I think Lloyd is an inspiration to day-in and day-out, hard working leaders, especially those working for less evolved managers. We’ve all had an “Ari Gold” in our lives.

Most important, Lloyd serves as a good reminder that we are all leaders. Supervising some or reporting to others, we have differing functions in the diverse roles in our lives.

Turtle, another consummate underdog on Entourage, perhaps sums it up best when he says: “It’s all about energy.”

He hit the nail on the head. Now I see what drives Lloyd!

Lloyd has that energy. His guts and no holds barred daring can inspire us to dream more, stretch more, challenge more than we ever thought possible. Maybe someday, we’ll see Lloyd as a successful account exec in the Miller Gold Agency. We might even think it’s overnight success if we’re new to the show. And wonder how Lloyd’s character ever rose to such meteoric heights. Those of us who have been watching will recognize the discipline it’s taken Lloyd. The challenges he’s endured on his way to the top.

For the moment, Lloyd has inspired me with his energy.
That’s the kind of leadership worth applauding!