Byron's Babbles

Leading Like Columbo

Posted in Ambition, Artist, Columbo, Global Leadership, Humble Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Passion by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 19, 2021

Many of you probably could have guessed that after a week of celebrating 50 years of Columbo that I would do a post about the rumpled and disheveled, but brilliant homicide detective played by Peter Falk. I blogged about him before in Listen and Look, Look and Listen. This past Wednesday, September 15th marked 50 years to the day since the first episode. Cozi TV 📺 did a Columbo marathon yesterday, and I made time last night for an episode I had not seen. The episode I watched was Murder, A Self Portrait. A new book, Shooting Columbo, by David Koenig just released this fall and is on my to read list. And…one more thing…I need to go back and reread Falk’s great book Just One More Thing.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the character, Lieutenant Columbo. For example, the conversation with Oliver Brandt in the Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case: “You know, sir, it’s a funny thing. All my life, I kept running into smart people. In school, there were lot’s of smarter kids, and when I first joined the force, sir, they had some very clever people there and I could tell right away it wasn’t going to be easy making detective as long as they were around. But I figured if I worked harder than they did, put in more time, read the books, kept my eyes open, maybe I could make it happen. And I did. And I really love my work, sir.” Did you catch that? He decided to work harder than everyone else.

Columbo has zero vanity. Most who know me, know I have little use for vanity. For many, vanity and ambition rule their passion. I loved the line in The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry that says, “His ego was dented, not his heart.” This was referring to Piper rejecting the plea of the boyfriend who had dumped her to get back together. In other words he really didn’t love her, he just didn’t like being seen as being rejected himself – vanity. It is the lack of vanity and his best feature of humility that give Columbo the skills to work with famous artists, as in the episode I watched last night or a homeless alcoholic in Negative Reaction. He is an authentic person with no false airs about him.

Status symbols don’t matter to Columbo. Just look at his beat up car. He is happy being who he is and being very good at it. That really is a big part of the success of the character of Columbo – being underestimated. It’s a reminder of how much credence we give to images. There are no delusions of grandeur. He’s absolutely content with what he has. We could all learn a lot from this.

“Everything under the surface,” “I would have had to keep digging,” and “You have to finish the painting” were all quotes that were meaningful at the end of the episode I watched last night and spoke to Columbo’s tenacity and thoroughness. Had Columbo not taken the time to read a book about the murdering artist he would not have known about a special paint, Barsini Red, that made solving the case possible. We must keep digging and know there is always more under the surface.