What Makes a Great Showrunner? 

(September 6, 2012) 


"There is nothing more fun than being a showrunner, but it is impossible to practice at home. Through casting and hiring you create this giant expensive instrument, like a piano made out of writers, actors, directors, designers, and editors, and then you play it. The writing staff generates ideas and jokes which you shape into stories and scripts, and the actors and crew generate moments which you shape in the editing room into TV shows. You need an appreciation and understanding of every artist’s contribution to get them to make music together. And then you get to be an artist and tell the stories you want through them."
-- Greg Daniels (The Office, King of the Hill)  


“I think a great showrunner is the perfect combination of decisive and collaborative. A showrunner is hired because they have a plan, a creative vision. At the same time they have to be able to listen, be collaborative and always come to the best result. I think if you have a tiny ego you’re probably not a showrunner. But that’s okay. You have to be strong enough, secure enough with your own vision to be open to hearing everything else . . . And a high tolerance to vodka doesn’t hurt.”
-- Russell Rothberg, Senior Vice President, Drama, Universal Television  


“The best showrunners are decisive, have a vision and trust the skilled people they hire to help them pull it off. A good leader knows how to delegate and keep the momentum of production flowing. They know that the many moving pieces of a production can fall apart quickly if you don't utilize your staff and crew effectively. There are many hands-on showrunners who are good at what they do. However, if you pay close attention, the very best showrunners know exactly where their hands aren't needed. Others attempt to do everything themselves with much less effectiveness. "Delegate or die" is one of my mantras.”
-- Yvette Lee Bowser (The Exes, Living Single)  


"The interesting thing about TV is that there is too much work for any one person to do in most circumstances. So a showrunner gets to pick which avenue he or she focuses on. For me it tends to be the script and the editing and having two different sides of my brain utilized during the day . . . Ultimately a great showrunner is someone who either is great at hiring or lucky and manages to get great work out of the people who work for him or her. I have had some success because I’ve hired some great people and allowed them to do their best. It takes patience and a mixture of ego and also lack of ego. There are times when you put your ego aside and times where you need to find that ego, and if you have a plan people need to get in line to support it.”
-- Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Chicago Code)  

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