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Management Lessons from ’30 Rock’

Image via Songquan Deng /

Alec Bladwin’s Jack Donaghy has been the playing the prototypical executive on “30 Rock” for seven seasons now. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about the man—his unending quest for innovation at GE and Kabletown, the value he places in mentoring (a la Tina Fey’s hapless Liz Lemon) and his love of powerful women (a one Ms. Condoleezza Rice).

As “30 Rock” comes to an end and Jack prepares to retire, Neil Irwin of The Washington Post looks at the aspect the character would most want to be remembered by—his skills as a manager:

Personal touches matter

Donaghy is highly attuned to the personal lives of his employees and what makes them tick. He is a superb giver of gifts, viewing it as the “purest expression of friendship” and invariably selecting uniquely appropriate presents. He may be a coldhearted corporate tactician at times, but he also cares deeply about his people, and does the little things to let them know it. This, more than any other character trait, appears to be based on Jack Welch, the GE chief executive from 1981 to 2004.

“Do you know why Jack Welch is the greatest leader since the pharaohs?” Donaghy asked in the first “30 Rock” season. “Because he didn’t only involve himself in our work lives, but our personal lives as well. He introduced us to the finest booze, the most restrictive country clubs. He gave us the names of the most discreet private investigators to spy on our ex-wives. He held our hands during our triumphs and our Senate hearings.”

The real Jack Welch may not favor restrictive country clubs or spying on ex-wives, but he has a reputation for taking intense interest in the lives of his underlings. For example, in an interview with BusinessWeek, Bob Nardelli told of Welch once making him work through a holiday weekend that he had been supposed to spend with his wife — and then sending a case of Dom Perignon and an apology note saying, “I was thinking more of myself than you and Sue. Have a toast on me.”

Donaghy practices the same philosophy. He understands that you can get more out of an employee when they know you will fight for them when the chips are down and help them emerge from personal crises or other challenges in life.

Read more about the management styling’s of Jack Donaghy here

(Image via Songquan Deng /

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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