I'll Pay You To Go Away- Leadership Lessons From Jersey Shore

What does Leadership have to do with Reality TV?  A LOT... From "Survivor" to "The Apprentice", these shows are impacting our leadership culture.  This genre of television leads the networks as having one of the most loyal of all fan bases, and I must admit I have my own favorites. I've always been a fan of big fan of COPS.  Add to my list American Idol, Intervention (I cry more times than I would like to admit) & Gene Simmons Family Jewels. These shows barely scratch the surface of the overwhelming glut of Reality TV. What's disturbing is that many of these shows tend to make influencers & leaders out of cast members, many with no talent & less class.

Jersey Shore is a perfect example. These kids personify many in their MTV culture, spending most of their days fixated on the next party experience. Cast members are totally self absorbed and narcissistic. What these brainless adolescents don't realize is the impact that their choices and actions have on the teenagers obsessed with watching their show. I'm not sure they would care if they did know.

Retailers and corporations DO understand the influence that those in the media have on the bottom line of products. So isn't it interesting that Abercrombie & Fitch offered to pay Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino of "Jersey Shore" fame NOT to wear their branded clothing? A & F released a statement August 16 titled "A Win-Win Situation," in which it stated a "deep concern" over the association between Mr. Sorrentino and the brand. A&F offered up a "substantial payment" to Mr. Sorrentino "to wear an alternate brand."   They want to pay him to disassociate himself with their brand!  "We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans."

What seems to be happening is obvious... his reputation and actions have caused him to become an "unleader" for Abercrombie & Fitch. Evidently you can be so worthless as a human being that regardless of fame or celebrity you're more of a liability than an asset. Your influence as a leader not only drops to O, it goes into negative territory.

So how do we lead effectively if qualities of a person in our organization are so unacceptable, so negative, that we would rather a person possessing them not even be associated with us?  Differences are the spice of life, to be sure. I don't advocate that we all become a bunch of lemmings or drones, but shouldn't we draw the line somewhere? Maybe several "somewheres"? Some behaviors and attitudes can be so detrimental to the cause that their individual benefit is totally negated, and even more damage than good is the result. So how do leaders face these challenges?

Clarify- Leaders set the tone for the culture within which they lead. They articulate, even define the values, acceptable behaviors of their team. Leaders typically have a bigger picture of where the organization is headed, and they make their decisions according to that big picture.  Think of the leader as the captain of the ship.  A captain not only steers the ship, but he also keeps his eye on the horizon.  Don't miss the incredible importance of keeping an eye on the horizon.  By definition, "A horizon is the place where the earth meets heaven."  Yes, captains steer the ship from this point and this place in time. But Captains also know that there is more to life than just this moment. Simply put, leaders know there is a bigger picture, and that some things are grander in the scheme of life than others. Leaders clarify what these "bigger picture values" are to be.

Confront- Great leaders must be brave enough to say "enough is enough" and draw a line in the sand. They confront stupidity, selfishness,  or disregard for others head on. When necessary they do what Abercrombie & Fitch did; they part ways with the offensive freaks. They separate themselves from association with those who place their own whims and selfish choices above the cause or the greater good. A & F showed that they were willing to separate themselves from a negative influencer, and to pay a price to maintain something of greater value- their reputation. This is pretty significant, considering Abercrombie & Fitch has been under fire for several racy marketing campaigns featuring nearly naked models.  It seems even they have their limits.

Fill the Void- Simply removing negative influences from the scene is not enough. The old saying goes, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything" still holds true today. Leaders must be out in front, charting new courses of influence for the advancement of the group, and positively influencing the world they affect. The universe abhors a vacuum, and unless leaders take charge and navigate an intentional course for their organization to be character driven, something or someone else will be glad to step in and chart a conflicting or damaging course for them.

There's no doubt that Reality TV shows like "Jersey Shore" are here to stay, complete with flaky characters and outlandish behaviors. The challenge leaders in this generation face are whether or not they will face the "reality" of clarifying what our values need to be, confronting and removing those people that undermine our values, and then filling the void with things that build up our organizations and our people. If we do, we win. If we don't we could find ourselves in our own "Fitchuation" where negative influencers take the lead. So get busy, and lead out loud!