I’m not suggesting that you lead like Gary Busey. I’m asking if you think you should.
Watching The Celebrity Apprentice is a guilty pleasure. The human dynamics–especially of the overblown egos–are quite interesting.
Gary Busey was the project leader for the men’s team last week. Let me frame it up: Gary is an excellent actor whom I very much enjoy. He is also whackadoodle. I recognize he suffered a brain trauma from a motorcycle accident and am not making light of that but suspect that Gary’s style is in part a bit contrived (maybe a great deal contrived).
He’s a likable goof. His attention wanders, he says outrageous things but he generally treats people nicely. It makes for entertaining TV.
As a project leader, he got really lucky: his team won, but it didn’t appear due to his leadership. His was disorganized and disengaged. Gary’s teammates carried him and the women’s team had a few problems of their own (watch the rerun if you need more detail).
Here’s what I found interesting: in the boardroom, when criticized for his ineffective leadership, Gary kept saying “But we won!” as proof that he must therefore have been a good leader.
But Gary’s team didn’t win because of his leadership but in spite of it.
As leaders, we can do things poorly and get lucky. Sometimes we do things right and get slammed undeservedly. (One would hope those situations balance out.)
An important nuance of leadership is to honestly and critically assess cause and effect. That means realizing when we’re lucky and not taking undue credit. It also means taking solace when we did the right thing but the outcome wasn’t what we desired or even deserved.
Importantly, this ability to assess cause and effect/leadership skill and organizational results is critical in developing and promoting leaders. Have you ever seen someone get ahead, at least for the short run, by claiming credit for a result they didn’t create? Ever observed a good leader get derailed by bad luck? If you have (and I have), then you have seen what happens due to bad assessment.
Despite the connection between actions and results, sometimes we need to separate the two and analyze them individually lest we reach the wrong conclusions.
And the answer is no: don’t lead like Gary Busey…unless you’re trying for a spot on a reality show.