Gilligan’s Island Leadership: It’s a Wrap!
Throughout the week, I’ve extracted leadership lessons by examining the characters of the classic TV show Gilligan’s Island. Today, I’ll conclude the series by looking at the final castaway, Ginger.
Ginger: It’s often been said that if you fake it long enough, you’ll eventually make it happen. Personally, I don’t believe in faking your way to success, because along the way, the false claims you make end up leaving their mark on unsuspecting followers. In Season 2, Episode 23: Ship Ahoax, Ginger exhibits a positive attitude and motivates the group by pretending to possess fortune-telling skills. While her rouse temporarily boosts morale in a time of crisis, it backfires when she foretells the presence of a ship off the island, but it is ignored because she has been discovered as a fraud.
Other than this extreme charlatan behavior, the “movie star” never attempts to position herself as the leader or provide suggestions for getting off the island. She does, however, assist the efforts of her companions in the best way she knows how: by using her sex appeal to their advantage.
In Season 2, Episode 9: Nyet, Nyet–Not Yet, Ginger comes to the aid of Gilligan and The Professor when a Russian space capsule ends up on the island. When the pair try to gain access to capsule in and effort to call for help, Ginger’s seductive behavior distracts the cosmonauts so that the duo can achieve their goal.
In another episode, Ginger does her part by helping Mary Ann and Mrs. Howell barricade a lion that somehow ends up on the island on the way to the Singapore Zoo. The three ladies exhibit courage and teamwork in their efforts to trap the ferocious, wild animal.
While Ginger may not be a leader among the castaways, she is a valuable member of the team. She exhibits no aspirations to position herself any higher in “rank”, and is content with her role as it stands. But while this glamorous castaway is neither a DUD, a WOW, or a NOW, there are still lessons to learn from her presence on the show.
Every leader can benefit from tips, advice, and examples of how to be a better leader. But a good leader also sees the relevance and importance of the role of the follower. After all, a leader is only as good as those she leads. Being a great leader often depends on choosing the right team with the right skill sets for the project. The more diverse the skill set, the better performance you can expect from the group as a whole. And if you choose a Ginger, who is clearly a team player with no selfish, ulterior motives, you’ll be enhancing your abilities as a leader and solidifying the dynamic of the team.
To wrap up this segment on Gilligan’s Island leadership, I offer a quote from series creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz, who said, “You don’t learn from your successes, you learn from your failures.” Schwartz was referring to character and cast changes that had been made after the original pilot, but before the first episode aired on CBS. Only 4 of the original 7 actors were also in the pilot show–The Professor, Ginger, and Mary Ann were replaced because the casting just didn’t work. Schwartz explained that the girls in the pilot had both been secretaries, and admitted that there wasn’t enough contrast between the personalities to create interest.
Another change that was made before the series premiered was the opening theme song. Had the original tune survived, I might not have been a fan! Oftentimes, as leaders, we need to adjust our plans and change our strategies as we go. Our original vision needs to be moldable and flexible, and we need to have the ability to recognize when improvements can be made.
On Gilligan’s Island, an unlikely group is thrust into a team setting and forced to coexist in their own mini society. At various times, the unique skill sets of each castaway is highlighted as being beneficial or more desirable depending on the circumstances or the issue being faced. They must function as a cohesive unit, whether they like or not, in order to survive. In my opinion, the show is worth revisiting. If not for the lessons learned in leadership and group dynamics, then for the pure entertainment value of an iconic series that still resonates as hilarious and innovative.