When the talented Tim Russert passed away so suddenly, like many people, I was deeply saddened.  “Meet the Press” is not quite as must-see-TV as it once was, and that’s left a hole in my Sunday morning.  But my bigger disappointment is watching the on-air egos try to fill the vacuum Russert left, with their own agendas, and at their colleagues’ expense.

At this point, the more accurate description is me not watching the on-air egos try to fill the vacuum that Russert left.

I began watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC during this election’s primary races, and found the mix of news and opinion smart and informative.  The divergent opinions of hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski (among others) surfaced naturally and with civility.  Soon after Russert died, however, the tone of inevitable debates moved from collegial to strained.  The meltdown and aftermath of MSNBC on-air staff relationships during the Democratic convention is well documented.  For example, here’s the AP report about the situation from Sunday, September 7th.

I am back to “Mike and Mike in the Morning” (it is football season, after all).  “Morning Joe” is now unwatchable, the team has lost their way.

The public meltdown of MSNBC staff relationships has led me to think about the leadership of Tim Russert.  I wonder if the strength of his leadership was more about the force of his personality, his singular talent, and less about his ability to build a cohesive team.  Would a more cohesive team at MSNBC been able to better withstand the loss of Russert’s leadership?  What might he have done differently?

Maybe nothing.  Maybe Russert did everything he could.  Maybe no amount of attention to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts would be sustainable under these conditions.

That said, it’s worth thinking about our own teams: focusing energy on a positive team culture that will sustain through the loss of its leader and/or a singular talent.

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