Don’t read this if you are out of touch with your sensitive side! But Channel 4’s Undercover Boss USA shows Joel Manby as a great model of leadership.
It’s the usual format with Joel, CEO of Herschend theme parks, going undercover in his own venues. In each site and with each person he works with, he finds a strong point of connection.
I have a “phony” meter with these programmes, but Joel certainly comes across as genuine.
His own background from a low-income hard-working family propels him to achieve.
Having come through addiction to overwork, and an unhelpful relationship with alcohol, he knows he’s made mistakes.
He brings a refreshing approach. Quick as a flash he identifies the not inconsiderable need in the folks he works alongside incognito. He is rooted to the spot by the accounts of homelessness, struggle and unemployment.
Of course he identifies strongly with those who try, who struggle. He’s had “breaks” himself and now he wants to give back.
In the moving “reveal” when he summons them to head office and tells them who he really is, there is already a palpable bond between them.
Joel uses his company position to lay out assistance to those who prefer not to ask for it. Let’s face it, that’s most of us.
Is “engagement” the first rule of leadership?
“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” (John C Maxwell).
Joel Manby CEO engages alright. As a leader he gets his own house in order first.
His own family.
Hopefully gone are his workaholic days. They are even able to adopt a chinese orphan to add to the 4 kids they already love.
He looks like he is succeeding at work too. I know our American cousins are a little more expressive than us, but you would be hard pressed to fake the reception he gets at the annual staff conference.
Neither is he bribing these guys. They seem to be getting up ridiculously early, working like troopers and delivering great results for the business already.
Hard work is rewarded, needs are addressed, aspirations are met. They have a family-style support system which would be the envy of many companies in the world.
Maybe I’m getting soppy now, but I find it hard not to be moved by the sight of the aspiring boss getting paid-study-leave for the first time, and breaking down.
But isn’t this what it’s all about? Isn’t this what we went into business for, to make a difference? Or rather, what will we be remembered for?
Post script: look at the way they serve their customers! Could service be the new economy?
See also: A Royal appointment