Although I am not a big fan reality television shows in general, I’ve started following a few shows because the examples of good and bad team leadership are interesting. The episodes contain lessons on good and bad tactical and strategic decision-making. Positive and negative results from Leaders’ actions are there for everyone to see. In addition to the words being spoken, you see all the nuances: the body language, the voice inflections, the facial expressions, and the unexpected situations and consequences. Even if you discount some of the drama to producer-influenced-theatrics, the shows are interesting lessons in communication and influence. If you have the time on a weekend, many of these types of shows are run in marathon fashion so you can watch the entire season story in one sitting. The shows I’ve been following recently are:
Bamazon (a team of guys from Alabama go to Guyana to mine for gold):
Gold Rush (following teams mining for gold in Alaska):
In both of these shows there are Bosses leading teams of people. The shows contain common threads:
1. An objective that needs to be accomplished and everyone understands (.e.g, finding gold)
2. A requirement for complex planning before actual work begins.
3. A deadline to accomplish the objective (e.g., when Winter comes to Alaska, when the dry season comes to the jungle
4. Unexpected events and situations that disrupt the original plans for accomplishing the objective. (e.g., equipment breakdowns, weather delays, accidents)
5. Individual egos and biases that must be dealt with…..including that of the Boss.
6. The overall objectives are not always accomplished. In other words, there are failures.
I like to key in on the leadership skills of the Bosses relative to the motivations of the team members. It starts with the first episode of the season. There’s the overall objective of mining for gold that requires knowledge and planning on the part of the Boss. You can almost predict how things are going to go as you watch how the Boss makes and communicates his plans. I sometimes wonder why anyone, even those who are friends or desperate financially, would sign on to work for some of these guys, especially when you consider the high risks and dangerous work environments. Unless you strike it big or just enjoy a hard-work adventure, there are better ways to make a living. As the season’s shows progress you start seeing the shortcomings of plans from the beginning. For example, logistics plans are frequently inadequate (e.g., underestimating how long it will take to get a 16,000 pound excavator to a remote site, failing to invest in spare parts in the event you have a breakdown in a place where it can take days to find replacements).
An all-to-frequent trait of the Bosses is a “my way or the highway attitude” even if it is likely they are wrong. This trait tends to rear its ugly head when unexpected setbacks occur. It is a good reminder that even if you are the boss, that doesn’t mean you have all the best answers. It’s disappointing to watch a Boss ignore the ideas and expertise of his team…and even put the project at risk…..just to demonstrate that he is “The Boss”, especially when members of the team have better solutions to problems that arise. It’s also demoralizing to the team when the Boss brings in an outsider to “fix” a problem the team could have addressed if given the opportunity. If the Boss does not trust members of his own team, why did he hire them?
There are members of the team that you wonder why they are there. They make mistakes, ignore warnings, and just plain do stupid things. Here again, it’s the Boss who brought them on the team. He must have had a reason. I sometimes struggle to understand that reason.
There are tons of scenes and subplots in these shows that are useful lessons in leadership and management. I’ve actually purchased the box sets to some of the shows and watch and discuss them with my wife and kids. They are entertaining and educational.
There are several shows out these similar to these. If you have some time, check some of them out and watch them through the lens of a Leader. You might pick up some useful ideas and insights into your own leadership style…..I know I have.
Take Care and Hey…………………..Have a Great Day !!!!