What does Leadership have to do with Reality TV?  A LOT… Think about it, who would’ve ever thought it would explode into a multibillion dollar industry?!  This genre of television leads the broadcast and cable networks as having one of the most loyal of all fan bases.  Now before I go into a tirade, I will admit there are a few reality TV shows that I DO watch. I’ve always been a fan of COPS. There’s nothing to get the adrenaline pumping like watching a great car chase go down! Add to my list American Idol & America’s Got Talent (I love to find undiscovered music for my iTunes library), Intervention (I cry more times than I would like to admit) & Gene Simmons Family Jewels(they just crack me up!). That being said, there is an overwhelming glut of Reality Trash TV on the cable and broadcast airwaves these days. It makes celebrities and influencers out of people 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 how to bring themselves one more party experience. The cast members are totally self focused, and their lack of concern as individuals and as a group should be embarrassing to them and to their generation. What these brainless overgrown adolescents don’t realize is the impact that their choices and actions have on the teenagers obsessed with watching their show. I’m not really sure they would care if they did know.

But retailers and corporations DO understand the influence that those in the media have on the bottom line of products, especially the products they use and/or endorse. So isn’t it interesting that Abercrombie & Fitch to offer to pay Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino of “Jersey Shore” fame NOT to wear their branded clothing. The New Albany, Ohio company released a statement Tuesday evening 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.”

WHAT??? They want to pay him to disassociate himself with their clothing and their brand! The statement went on to say, “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 simple… his life, his reputation and his actions have caused him to become an “unleader” for Abercrombie & Fitch. Evidently you can be so worthless as a human being, that regardless of how popular or famous you are, you are more of a liability than an asset. Your influence of a leader not only drops to 0, it goes into negative territory.

So the question begs to asked, “What are those 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 and individuality are the spice of life, to be sure. I’m not advocating that we all become a bunch of lemmings or drones either. But for most of us, we draw the line somewhere. Maybe several “somewheres”. Some behaviors, attitudes and actions can be so detrimental to the group or cause that the benefit that an individual might bring 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 the values and the acceptable behaviors and practices of their employees and those that represent them. Leaders typically have a bigger picture of where the organization is headed, and they make their decisions according to that big picture. I’ve used this illustration for years about captains and their role. The goal of the captain is to steer the ship, but to keep his eye on the horizon. But you have to grasp what that truly means but understanding the value of the “horizon”. I humbly submit that the best definition of a “horizon” is my own… “A horizon is the place where the earth meets heaven.” So captains steer the ship from this point and this place in time. But the captain also knows that there is more to life than just this moment. Simply put, leaders know there is a greater cause, a bigger picture, and that some things are grander in the scheme of life than others. These are the things that shape what we value the most, and are willing to go to great lengths to defend and protect them.

Confront- At some point great leaders have to be brave enough to say “enough is enough”. They draw a line in the sand. They confront stupidity, selfishness, disregard for others or total narcissism head on, and 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 company, the cause or the greater good. Abercrombie & Fitch is a perfect example of a company that is willing 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.

Fill the Void– Leaders must step up to protect the integrity of their organizations, even if it is from its own employees or those associated with the organization. But simply removing negative influences 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, helping the organization to plow new fields of influence for the advancement of the group, and positively affecting the world they affect. The universe hates a vacuum, and unless leaders take charge and chart 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, along with their flaky characters and outlandish affect on our culture. The challenges you and I face as leaders in this generation is whether or not we will face the “reality” of clarifying what our values need to be, confronting those that challenge or undermine them, and then filling the void as we remove those negative influences with things that enhance and build up our organizations and those people who are a part of them. 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!