Jeopardy! has been in the news lately. The iconic game show has spent some time choosing a new host since the passing of the legendary Alex Trebek.

Even after much time, an extensive pool of candidates, an elaborate tryout process, and many trials and tribulations, a new voice at the helm has been elusive. Would you call that just par for the course, or does it point to the wild popularity of the show and its previous host? I believe it points to the psychology of the show itself.

Many of the experts explain Jeopardy!’s popularity as a result of its accessibility. Categories are said to be chosen and constructed to allow viewers at home to truly feel like they can play along. The show is said to evoke more moments of “Hey, I should be on this show” than any other game show ever has. But more important may be the format of the show, one that everyone is familiar with, and has implanted the show into the modern lexicon and culture of entertainment—providing the answer and searching for the question.

“Have you ever seen them ask any questions? They just know what to do.”

Although not brought up in any of the analysis, I believe it is the psychology of the show’s format that has ensured its popularity and been a window into how we perceive leadership in our culture.

For 37 years, Trebek hosted—lead, if you will—the show, providing the answers and asking contestants to deduce the question. Thirty-seven years of having all the answers. May sound fishy, but it is backed up by the depictions of leadership in movies and on television.

As Managing Editor Michelle Bangert points out in the opening of this month’s management article:

We’ve all seen movies where the leader inspires his or her team with a moving speech and a call to action. But one characteristic is usually absent.

“Have you ever seen them ask any questions? They just know what to do,” says Terence Coleman Jr., president of Tecnova Electronics Inc.

While Hollywood frequently presents leaders as all-knowing, it’s important that leaders ask questions and seek out feedback.

Coleman also said, “They don’t need to know everything—but good leaders must know the goals for the company.”

And that is important for all involved—leaders, followers, associates, suppliers, stakeholders. Asking questions and searching for feedback provides the confidence of knowing everyone is on the same page.

Take our democracy, for example, where it has always been an important tenet to question our leaders and voice the needs of the people, a luxury not afforded in a system where leaders are regarded as omnipotent and unquestionable.

So, for more insight on the subject of leadership, read Michelle’s article, “Leading the Way,” our 101 articles on Lean Manufacturing, “Lean 101: An Introduction to Lean Manufacturing” and “How to Lean up Your ISO Documentation Structure,” and everything else we have to offer in this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!