What Lessons Does Fictional Detective Montalbano Have For Leaders?

I’m a Detective Montalbano fan and had the chance to visit the sites in southern Sicily where the DVD series are filmed.

We were four intrepid fans; a lawyer, a blood scientist, an electronics whiz, me, and our driver and guide, Gulianna. Together we relived the scenes in their location. We visited Montalbano’s local café, where he interviews suspects. We drove to Castello Donnafugata where he met the mafia Don and his henchmen in one episode.

Lunch was at Montalbano’s restaurant in the fabulous beach setting, with the freshest of fresh fish. We walked down to his apartment balcony by the sea at Punta Secca, and then Polizzi Stazione in Sicily. Our guide there, Enrico, told us behind the scenes secrets.

You can see our excitement in the photo below. Four fans looking so pleased with ourselves in Montalbano’s office – here to help solve crimes!

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As fans, our shared intrigue with the Italian detective gave us immediate rapport. This was like travelling with long-time friends – we had much to discuss.

What is it with Montalbano that appeals to me?

Italian writer, Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano understands human fallibilities. He refuses to be caught by stereotypes and assumptions, he asks left-field questions to discover unlikely accomplices, and he fearlessly helps the underdog. He has regular disagreements with his long-distance partner. Montalbano’s quirky personal qualities shape his professional contributions. I like that a lot.

Playwrite, Pip Hall, outlines two features that captivate audiences; distinctive characters and a compelling storyline. The Montalbano series has both.

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The four things Montalbano can teach leaders:

  1. Be relentlessly curious. Montalbano goes beyond stereotypes. He refuses to be caught in what looks like obvious answers. He asks unlikely questions. His curiosity motivates him to follow his intuition, and he seeks out unlikely suspects. Leaders too often can be caught by assumptions, and fail to look beyond the obvious. Removing roadblocks for others is not easy work and requires leaders to be curious and go beyond what they already know. Cutting across social norms, standing up for what and who you believe in is essential leadership behaviour.
  2. Take time for reflection. The shots of Montalbano having an evening drink on his balcony, his early morning swim, and his lunches looking across the bay give fans the sense of Montalbano’s reflectiveness. He takes his time to think through options and possibilities. Leaders are bombarded with information, opinions, and responses. Leader’s thinking time is invaluable to align with their intuition and experience, and to come up with options and direction.
  3. Know when to accept the quirks of others. Montalbano’s side-kicks have quirks; the incomprehensible and clumsy Caccieroni is a technical whizz and accidental problem solver. Mimi seeks glory and is serially unfaithful and he serves as a foil in investigations. Fazio does the hard yards, backs Montalbano to the hilt, and he delivers. Leaders who ensure their team has diverse capacities is as essential as knowing when behaviours are detrimental to delivering results. Leaders know working with feedback is invaluable in changing someone’s habits only to strengthen their capacity to deliver results. Just because someone’s behaviour annoys you, or cuts across your values, doesn’t mean the behaviour is unacceptable.
  4. Have skin in the game. One of Montalbano’s attractions is that he has skin in the game; viewers know what and who he stands for, and what he lets go. Whether the theme is human trafficking, exploitation of illegal immigrants, revenge or wrongful death, Montalbano relentlessly seeks justice. Equally, when he knows the truth, he decides to take action, not for its own sake, more on the basis of morality. While this is a tough call, leaders, too, weigh legality with morality in making decisions. This differentiates bureaucratic solutions from leaders who care.

What leadership abilities can you learn from your favourite fictional characters?

Diana Jones ©

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