Undercover Boss Should Stay That Way

I alerted our Leadership Report readers to this new CBS “reality” TV show last week.  It came after last night’s Super Bowl. I couldn’t handle it after watching such a great game.  Sort of like chasing a perfectly grilled prime ribeye with a cheap white zinfandel. (Is there an expensive white zin?) 

For those who were watching more serious fare, like I Love Lucy re-runs, Undercover Bossis is about corporate CEO’s who masquerade as someone else so they can snoop on their employees. Some snooping may be perceived as good and some bad by the producers.  But snooping is always disingenuous in my book.

It may be cute TV but a leader resorting to dishonesty to get in touch with his organization and its people is perverse, uproots the concept of authentic leadership and eliminates the leader as a candidate for teaching the corporate ethics class.  Its potential for abuse is horrendous.

In today’s climate, it’s important for leaders to tell the truth. Authenticity has its virtues. CEO’s have immense political and personal influence. They have opportunity to inflict both good and bad. But when you tell people you’re a dockworker when you’re not, you aren’t telling the truth and you compromise yourself and your position. And your real motives come into question.

Some may say that walking incognito “among the troops” is a good thing.  But, I believe there isn’t something fundamentally wrong about the relationship between a leader and his people if he has to fake it to stay in touch?

Some  news media are desperately trying to hang on to the separation between the editorial and business sides of their business, although it’s getting awfully murky out there when advertising appears on news pages and is camouflaged in magazines as news stories) but I wonder about any dilemma CBS might face as its news people seek transparency from leaders while its programmers celebrate CEO’s who lie and hide.

Your thoughts?

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