Posted On November 23, 2015

graphic with stars and larrikin

If so, you may think you’re the ideal leader, but your staff may not share the same views.

Remember Ricky Gervais’ cringe-worthy character, David Brent, from the hilarious comedy The Office?  It could well be that your team see you more like him than you realise.

Leadership is not a popularity contest

If you think that as a leader you’re there to be Mr or Ms Popularity, you’ve got it all wrong. This isn’t the kind of leader your staff want. You’re more likely to end up looking like Brent, rather than a respected leader who’s going to steer the company in the right direction.

David Brent is a middle manager of a fictitious English company set in a grey English town. He sees himself as the Great Leader, the ‘cool guy’ who puts the fun into the office. A kind of Renaissance man who’s both a genius and one of the boys. He proudly tells his team

“The office is like an army, and I’m the field general. You’re my foot soldiers and customer quality is the WAR!!!”

Although he thinks he’s a popular leader who has all the answers, the rest of the office see him as annoying fool who’s actually the opposite of a real leader. His immature behaviour comes across as he bumbles around the office telling unfunny jokes, performing clichéd impressions, and generally causing mayhem by talking before thinking.

Brent thinks he’s one of the good guys, the leader that he longed for when he was a rung lower on the ladder. However, his complete focus upon himself and patronising tone, not to mention his ‘footy show’ type jokes, gains him more enemies than friends. He reveals his true self when he exclaims

“There may be no ‘I’ in team, but there’s a ‘ME’ if you look hard enough”.

The Great Leader myth

In the business world, there’s still a desire to believe that the next great leader is out there, just ready to turn around any struggling business. The charming person who can solve all the problems and save a failing company with the sheer amount of skill and knowledge they possess.

In some small companies, and in one man operations, the leader does do everything. Whether they do it well is another matter. The belief in the great leader who knows everything and can do everything is, well a myth.

Despite a wealth of information and experience to suggest otherwise, the great leader who ‘knows all, does all’ is still yearned for.

The truth is, we don’t need one person to do everything.

There’s nothing wrong with charisma, but it’s only an addition to capability, not a substitute. Brent was of the opinion that

“If you treat the people around you with love and respect, they will never guess that you’re trying to get them sacked”.


Charismatic leaders are highly skilled communicators, articulate, but also able to get their message through on a deeper emotional level. They can evoke a persuasive vision as well as bring out strong emotions in those they lead.

The rise of the Selfless Leader

This is not to say that we don’t need great leaders, we do. We need to find leaders who put more effort into helping those who they’re responsible for rather than just themselves. Brent knew the clichés, but misconstrued the practical working.

Ricky Gervais, who both played Brent and co-wrote the show, revealed

“David Brent doesn’t represent evil, or nastiness or even ignorance. He’s just a little out of place. Out of time. His worst crime is that he confused respect with popularity”.

However, choosing just to be popular was where he went wrong. He didn’t really know how to be a leader. He was predominantly concerned with how others perceived him and the more negative the feedback was, the worse he become until he just became bitter and resentful.

It’s not all about you

The show is hilarious but the character of Brent was based upon real bosses Gervais had worked with previously. This is why he resonates with us; we’ve all experienced terrible bosses who are more concerned with their own self-importance rather than being there to help others and to do their job.

I’ll leave you with some more of David’s words for those of you who may have a manager like him,

“If your boss is getting you down, look at him through the prongs of a fork and imagine him in jail”.

Or you could point him in the direction of one of our short Leadership courses. Your call.


All Great Quotes. David Brent. Retrieved 14/5/2015 from

Gervais, R. (2011). Why David Brent Is a Good Guy. Huffington Post. (Retrieved 18/5/2015 from

Fairholm, M. (2004). Leadership and Organizational Strategy. (Retrieved 1/5/2015 from

Scholl, R.W. (2008). What is Leadership? (Retrieved 4/4/2015 from

Wikipedia. (2015). David Brent. (Retrieved 21/5/2015 from

Riggio, R.E. What Is Charisma and Charismatic Leadership? Psychology Today. (Retrieved 13/5/2013 from