Downton Abbey Leadership Lessons

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email


Americans have an enduring taste for PBS’ Downton Abbey. This past Sunday was the premiere of Season 4.  Trending everywhere on social media, the British period drama TV series depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era.  The show’s timing reflects the growing interest in the great events in history at that time.  2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War.

Although it is a prime time entertainment drama/soap opera and not a prestigious MBA school, The Healthy Leader recognizes a good teacher when we see one.  We are following the leadership lessons that can be learned from the story and the characters.


Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you don’t want to think about leadership when next watching Downton Abbey.

Leadership Crisis

Season 4 starts out with a huge leadership crisis at Downton Abbey.  The sudden death of a strong, progressive leader coupled with no clear succession planning has the great house occupants awash in grief and anxiety and unnerved about their future.  Who will provide leadership?

The Healthy Leader Model

There are signs of healthy leadership upstairs and downstairs at Downton Abbey.

Intellectual Health

brransonsybilTom Branson‘s character continues to demonstrate paradoxical thinking, an adaptive mindset and a deep curiosity to improve himself while pushing for the improvement of  the estate. At a time of class struggle and political tension between the Irish and English, his ability to adapt to changing conditions, solve problems and recover from setbacks shows his intellectual health.

How is your Intellectual Health? Find out by taking the Healthy Leader Assessment – Intellectual Health.


Social Health

HughesS3Mrs. Hughes, Downton’s housekeeper, is no busy body. Her recent transgression of reading Carson’s mail came from a place of authenticity,  a focus on mutually rewarding relationships and opting to do the right thing (even if breaking etiquette rules). She has the confidence to be who she wants to be in her relationship with Carson, a sign of a socially healthy leader.

How is your Social Health? Find out by taking the Healthy Leader Assessment – Social Health.


Vocational Health

daisy-mixerThe kitchen maid, Daisy, is committed to her career and displays a drive to succeed. Her ability to tap into a personal calling that reflects who she is and what she wants to be.  In the season premiere, we see Daisy using an electric mixer much to the awe and concern of her peers. Learning and mastering new technologies, new ideas, are part of vocational health.

How is your Vocational Health? Find out by taking the Healthy Leader Assessment – Vocational Health.


Spiritual Health


Isobel Crawley sets aside her grief over the loss of her son, Matthew, and displays a generosity of spirit towards others.  A healthy leader uses her spiritual health to recognize a higher purpose, something more meaningful than her personal needs to live with gratitude and generosity.

How is your Spiritual Health? Find out by taking the Healthy Leader Assessment – Spiritual Health.


Emotional Health

download (1)Lady Edith Crawley has clearly showed her strength and resilience.  While early in the series Edith was portrayed as the forgotten sister, she is proving to be the series character most able to deal with the new world order and leave her mark as a modern woman.  Her self-awareness and positive emotions helps her change and adapt.

How is your Emotional Health? Find out by taking the Healthy Leader Assessment – Emotional Health.


Physical Health

download (2)Undeniably, the most loved Downton character is Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess. Incredibly practical for being of the aristocratic “old world,” the Dowager understands that how you live gives you the agility and stamina to respond to all that’s coming at you.  Body/mind awareness, energy management and peak performance lifestyle comprise physical health. The Dowager’s long life and influence on others makes others listen, evidenced by how she helps Mary get back to life and run the estate.

How is your Physical Health? Find out by taking the Healthy Leader Assessment – Physical Health.

Are you subscribed to The Healthy Leader?


About the Author


Recent Post


Turning Vulnerability Into an Asset

A CEO raised by alcoholic parents develops a keen ability to observe and manage the emotions of his peers. A chronically anxious manager uses his ‘worrying’ skills to sense problems and opportunities before others do. An executive who had testicular cancer early in life uses his acquired empathy and authenticity


The Gift of Feedback

“It’s just business, nothing personal!”  How many times have you heard that before? I hate that expression. Everything is personal, especially feedback. We live in a 24X7 social world where connections are everywhere, you can’t hide from anything, and our relationships operate like social electricity. When we give or get


The Power of Resilience

Ask any business leader and he or she will tell you about the multiple times that they fell down and got up in their career. Whether it was losing a job, missing out on a promotion, screwing up with a client, or simply saying the wrong thing at the wrong



1101 Wilson Blvd. 6th Floor Arlington, VA 22209 USA


+ 1 703 351 9901


Need information here - is this new email addresses?