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Breaking Bad's Management Lessons

The leadership strategies behind Walter White’s meth empire
Breaking Bad's Management Lessons
Photograph by Everett Collection

“Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop going into work?” Walter White hisses to his wife at the midpoint of the most-quoted monologue in AMC’s Breaking Bad. “A business big enough that it could be listed on the Nasdaq goes belly up. Disappears!”

A stock exchange reference might seem out of place on a show about an Albuquerque meth king, but Breaking Bad, which begins airing its final eight episodes on Aug. 11, has always focused on the financial rewards of breaking the law. Over the course of the series, Walt (played by Bryan Cranston), an overqualified, milquetoast chemistry teacher who began cooking meth to pay for lung cancer treatments, has built his drug operation into an international powerhouse. And through Walt’s increasingly unhinged management style, Breaking Bad creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan has offered a riveting critique of professional leadership.