RIP Matthew: Leadership Lessons From A Downton Abbey Leader

Last spring, millions of Americans tuned into the season finale of one of television’s most popular and critically acclaimed shows on both sides of the Atlantic: Downton Abbey. While the Brits had known for months how tragedy would once again visit Downton, Americans watched in astonishment as season three came to a shocking and heartbreaking end.

Matthew Crawley, husband and new father, was heir to Downton and, for all practical purposes, its savior. That is, until his untimely death. Unlike our blokes across the pond, who have already finished season 4, we will have to wait another two months to learn how Lady Grantham and Downton will recover from this latest setback. In the meantime, we can reflect on the life of Matthew. Master Crawley, after all, was truly a great leader.

Simply put, great leaders are people others are willing to follow. From the moment we met Matthew, we were inspired. We cheered for him and, in the end, we wept for him.

Looking back at the ‘life’ of Matthew, it’s easy to see why the characters on Downtown and millions of viewers like myself found him so endearing. The secret of Matthew’s leadership success revolved around four characteristics people look for most in their leaders:

  • Integrity: People need to know that the person in charge won’t take advantage of his or her position. They won’t lie, steal, play favorites or betray others to get ahead. Matthew made difficult decisions, often at his own expense, in order to ensure the happiness and success of others.
  • Vision: Good leaders explain the significance of what they’re doing and how it fits into the larger scheme of things. A clear vision clarifies goals, roles and the way forward. It unifies the team…especially when times are tough. Matthew didn’t come in and save Downton on his own. He enlisted support by building strategic alliances and leveraging the strengths of both the family and staff.
  • Competence: Matthew’s natural charisma and charm certainly gained him invaluable goodwill, but it was his ability to get things done that sealed the deal time after time. As a military captain, husband and business owner, Matthew was not only competent himself, but he surrounded himself with others who complemented his skill set and management style.
  • Judgment: Most business failures are the result of bad decisions and the unwillingness to re-evaluate and change direction. Matthew was faced with the task of making decisions that would impact the lives of the family and staff at Downton for generations to come. He sought the counsel of others, weighed the implications of his actions and always took ownership for those decisions. It’s no wonder those at Downton and the millions of viewers who watch every week trusted and admired this character who lived in another century, but seemed to live next door.

Julian Fellows, the creator of Downton Abbey, along with the exceptional writing team, created one of the most memorable characters in recent television history. But it was actor Dan Stevens who brought Matthew Crawley to life in the way only a true leader can: with sincerity and the audacity to make us care.

Oh, and that season 4 premiere date? January 5th. Grab a bloke, a mate or even just a friend and return to the magic of Downton Abbey and the emergence of a new leader. Of course, all of that is…to be continued.

Until next time,

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One response to “RIP Matthew: Leadership Lessons From A Downton Abbey Leader

  1. oh! and we must add his smashing good looks! 🙂 I agree with this description and would also add his empathy and ability to relate with the folks downstairs, in the fields and those enjoying the ballroom. I think this type of emotional intelligence is also key for really great leaders. Love this show! Great post!

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