Leader’s authenticity devalued by undercover formula

It has been interesting looking at Undercover Boss Australia to see what, if any, lessons can be taken and applied to leadership, communication and results.

In previous weeks, I have been able to take away a tip, a strategy or a flaw and use that to look at a broader area of organisational communication or strategy. This week’s episode has frustrated me.  Toga Hospitality CEO, Rachel Argaman took on a number of roles from housekeeping to kitchen hand to concierge in hotels and apartments within the Toga group.

There were certainly moving stories from employees who had experienced difficulties or significant life events. There were issues in the business with evidence that social programs, training and development opportunities were not consistently communicated or applied within some of the establishments. Plenty of fodder for discussion. But not providing a standout theme. Something just didn’t feel right.

What was missing? The CEO. Rachel was certainly present for the people she was working alongside. Her manner was open and inquisitive. One of the factors that makes Undercover Boss compelling (at its best) is understanding the journey of the leader as they discover challenges within the business.  Unfortunately, this element was absent from Argaman’s quest: she wasn’t really present for us, the viewer. What did she learn? What were her insights? What did she reflect on as a result.

Leadership Skills Australia undertook a review of readings on authentic leadership and distilled 5 common themes that consistently featured in the literature:

  • Commit to the truth
  • Know yourself well
  • Show self discipline
  • Show compassion
  • Be genuine

Argaman, a CEO with a strong reputation for her vision and team approach for the organisation, is an articulate believer in the power of authentic leadership, as she has demonstrated elsewhere in local news and older interviews.

Unfortunately in this episode, we were not given a sense of Argaman’s self-knowledge and awareness. It is a shame this aspect of her experience was not more apparent in the production.


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