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Survivor Leadership: 4 Powerful Lessons from Reality TV

In CBS, College Students, diversity, Exploring Leadership, Group Dynamics, Interaction Process Analysis, Komives, Leader, Leadership, life, Malavenda, Nance Lucas, Pablo Malavenda, Pop Culture, Reality TV, Robert Bales, self-fulfilling prophecy, Survivor, Survivor Cook Island, survivor women, Timothy McMahon, TV, TV shows on May 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm

The Complete Guide



The Complete Guide to Survivor Leadership contains 4 Powerful Lessons.  Studying LEADERSHIP by watching the CBS reality TV show, Survivor will give you powerful insights into how leadership develops in teams AKA tribes. I have taught leadership for close to 25 years.  I have used various techniques to make learning leadership meaningful and topical.  As long as Survivor has been on the air, I have been using the reality TV show to emphasis and highlight the various aspects of several leadership models, practices, and theories.  From the first episode through the live Finale show, Leadership is present, can be observed, predicted and studied. The 4 Survivor Leadership Lessons are as follows:


Survivor Leadership


Lesson 1 — The Leadership Primer


This PC Pop blog post is the quintessential Survivor Leadership primer. In this post you will learn about the basic LEADERSHIP models that give the framework for being able to study leadership and how leadership emerges among tribe members. Using Leadership models and theories that emphasize relationships as much as task completion, you begin to understand how Leadership develops among tribe members.  If you love studying leadership you will love finding out how LEADERSHIP is an integral part of the group dynamics on Survivor.  If you read this before watching Survivor, you will begin to see the relationships and interactions on Survivor in a much different way. It makes watching Survivor a much more exciting experience. READ more…


Lesson 2 — Self-Fulfilling Prophecy


This PC Pop blog post discusses a concept called “self-fulfilling prophecy.” In order to study LEADERSHIP among the castaways on Survivor you must examine some of the variables that will impact the group dynamics.  In this post we look at how casting affects the group development and the tone of the tribe communities. Read this post and learn about how casting can reinforce negative stereotypes and complicate the natural development of teams.  If you are interested in how important diversity and inclusion are in Leadership, you will find this post very interesting. READ more…


Lesson 3 — Family First


This PC Pop blog post focuses on what the members of the tribe must be concerned about if they wish to be a LEADER. The tribes within Survivor resemble in many ways a “family.”  This post explores the concept of LEADERS first know who they are before they may be effective.  Leaders must first must know them-SELVES, then their FAMILY, then OTHERS. Once you become self aware of your own talents and issues, have the love, support and coaching from your family — you then impact your community and change the world. LEADERSHIP is about community and family; and this blog post explores that within Survivor.  As you will see sometimes it works and (like this season) sometimes it doesn’t.  You will enjoy the analysis of the men’s tribe; and it will give you more to think about the next time you tune into Survivor. READ more…


Lesson 4 — Serving Your Community


This PC Pop blog post focuses on the importance of Leaders developing a sense of Community. In order to understand others, you must first understand yourself.  You cannot lead a team or tribe unless you understand others enough to include and empower them.  Once they are empowered they must be coached, challenged, and encouraged. In Survivor, your immediate tribe is your core community (small c) or family.  The entire group of castaways regardless of their tribe affiliation and their alliances is the Community (Big C).  Unfortunately, the castaways become so focused on Leading their tribe and playing the game they fail to become great Community Leaders. To examine this further we must look at various LEADERSHIP models particularly Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership. This season there are some clear examples of castaways completely disregarding their community — and getting eliminated. READ more…


Survivor: One Worldthe twenty-fourth season of the American CBS competitive reality television series, premiered on February 15, 2012. I triple love Survivor for many reasons — but mostly because of the LEADERSHIP lessons learned by observing the group development, teamwork and relationships among the castaways. As a self-proclaimed, cultural anthropologist with a specialization in Pop culture — Survivor gives me great joy.  Tune in and let me know what you think.  If you already planned on watching, I hope these four Survivor Leadership blog posts give you something more to observe and reflect upon.  I hope I’ve convinced you it may be worth tuning into Survivor in future. You might find some value in studying Survivor — some value in studying Pop Culture — some value in studying Reality TV.


To understand more about Survivor Leadership, please read each of the PC Pop blog posts 1, 2, 3, 4. Please check back here often because this list will be updated regularly.


CBS Survivor episodes and videos can be viewed online.


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Survivor Leadership, Chapter 4 — Serving Your Community

In CBS, College Students, Exploring Leadership, Group Dynamics, Komives, Leader, Leadership, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, Pop Culture, Reality TV, Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership, Survivor, survivor women, Timothy McMahon, TV, TV shows, Uncategorized on March 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Karma


Before reading this PC Pop blog post, you may want to first read the other posts about Survivor and Leadership: Survivor Leadership, Chapter 1 — The Leadership Primer; Chapter 2 — Self-Fulfilling Prophecy; and Chapter 3 — Family First.


As an instructor of LEADERSHIP for college students, I use many techniques to demonstrate and teach aspects of leadership — including watching Survivor.  Generally though we only watch the first four to five episodes as a class because at some point the “game” becomes more and more autocratic and Machiavellian — and mean spirited. Ultimately the Survivor premise — of voting everyone off until there is only one Survivor — is the antithesis of the best practices of LEADERSHIP. But during those first four episodes you can really see LEADERSHIP emerge among the members of the tribes; what I refer to as Survivor Leadership. After 4 to 5 episodes into the season, it is important to focus on the importance of Community LEADERSHIP.

Robert Greenleaf

Robert K. Greenleaf

In order to understand others, you must first understand yourself.  You cannot lead a team or tribe unless you understand others enough to include and empower them.  Once they are empowered they must be coached, challenged, and encouraged. In Survivor, your immediate tribe is your core community (small c) or family.  The entire group of castaways regardless of their tribe affiliation and their alliances is the Community (Big C).  Unfortunately, the castaways become so focused on Leading their tribe and playing the game that they fail to become great Community Leaders. To examine this further we must look at various LEADERSHIP models particularly Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership.

Colton has lost sight of one important aspect of leadership — all of your actions should be to benefit the common good.  This is best articulated in the definition from The Relational Leadership Model which states: Leadership is a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good (Komives, 2007).  At this point in my class, I would tell the students “this is where we lose Hitler.”  Hitler may have been effective in mobilizing lots of people to do his bidding but nothing he was doing was for the “common good”; therefore, he was not a leader.

Christina

Christina

Alicia

Alicia

This past Wednesday CBS aired the sixth episode of Survivor: One World and the castaways have been together now for 14 days. It is at this point in the competition that I fantasize about how different it would be if the castaways had some insight into leadership. As I watched the episode unfold — it reminded me of the potential we all have to have a tremendous impact on our Community.  During this episode, the villian Colton had found an ally — Alicia. Colton and Alicia turned on their tribe-mate, Christina and became classic bullies.  Colton has no legitimate right to authority or power in his tribe or the entire community but others are for a variety of reasons allowing him to not only lead but to also be a coercive, manipulative meanie.

Colton Cumbie

Colton

Colton’s action were not for the common good of his tribe let alone the entire community of castaways in this camp.  If you define great leadership as actions or changes to benefit the common good it allows you to explore values, service, humility, civic engagement, empowerment, inclusiveness, diversity and community.   Colton’s behavior or style also does not resemble that of a Servant Leader — where you serve others first, selflessly, and lead next (Greenleaf, 2002). Colton is a prime example of a meanie who thinks he is a leader.  So regardless of what Colton and his allies think, he is not a LEADER.

In the competition of Survivor focusing on the needs of others, being selfless and promoting and developing others is a risky strategy. But I would argue ignoring the needs of the Community is short sighted and will eventually be your undoing. If you know anything about Survivor you know  eventually the tribes merge into one tribe.  If you acknowledge the collection of all tribes (families or neighborhoods) to be a part of a larger Community — the merge is pivotal in one’s success as a Leader.  If you are NOT focused on the holistic aspects of your entire Community until the merge — it is too late to have a positive impact.  What a different sociological “experiment” in human behavior Survivor would be if each castaway employed the principles of Servant Leadership — listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, and commitment to the growth of others and building community (Greenleaf, 2002).

Similar to the world and communities in which we lead, Servant Leadership is such an inspirational, aspirational and attractive theory — but can it really be implemented?  As Leaders we often see things from a selfish, self promoting lens — focusing on material things and the next promotion. Like Survivor there is an ultimate prize at the end of the competition.  Logically we can see, even if we don’t believe in Karma, that there are great benefits to ignoring those selfish urges and focusing on the needs of others, serving first/leading next, and working hard to develop the skills of others, empowering them to become more engaged and better servants and leaders themselves.  This philosophy is virtuous but risky and threatening.  You must take the leap of faith. In Survivor you build alliances to get you farther in the competition until eventually you will have to turn on your allies and attempt to promote yourself — to the supreme role of Sole Survivor.  Is it possible the Survivor  is more similar to the corporate American ladder than we would want to admit?

Sabrina

Sabrina

There is some encouragement in this season of Survivor though. Sabrina has been a great example of a leader with the ability of Encouraging the Heart (Kouzes & Posner, 2008).  One of the five elements of The Leadership Challenge is a concept called Encouraging the Heart.  Encouraging the Heart is such a powerful concept the authors dedicated an entire text to the subject — Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others (Kouzes & Posner, 2003).  As a leader I am comfortable Challenging the Process and Inspiring a Share Vision, two of the other elements of The Leadership Challenge, but I have struggled with Encouraging the Heart (Kouzes & Posner, 2008).  I have had to be very intentional about sending thank you notes, celebrating small victories, and sounding sincere in my praise of others’ work.  When I assemble a team, I always try to recruit a leader who is strong with Encouraging the Heart to complement my strengths.  Sabrina has consistently been the one castaway on Survivor this season that has been genuinely concerned about the feelings of others.  Sabrina has been a strong competitor but this week her tribe, Salani, was required to have one member sit out the reward challenge. Sabriana sat out of the challenge but was completely engaged.  She cheered on her tribe-mates with words of encouragement and great sideline coaching.  Her role in this reward challenge made the difference and they won — a luxury prize with ice cream sundaes with all the fixings.  Another example of hope this season is how Christina dealt with being bullied by Colton, Alicia and others in her own tribe.  Christina stayed focused, did not retaliate with hateful words, and did not hold a grudge when Colton needed comforting.  When Colton started to experience extreme pain, Christina was the only tribe-mate who went to Colton’s aid and helped him find comfort.

Message to Mark Burnett, Executive Producer of Survivor — consider a new reality TV show concept, Survivor Leadership. The concept would be very similar to Survivor with one major difference.  The difference is each castaway has been trained in LEADERSHIP.  Each castaway would be required to complete the curriculum of a special Survivor Leadership Academy.  The syllabus would focus on the history and development of Leadership theories, practices and models.  It would focus on self-awareness, inclusiveness, group dynamics, teamwork, ethics, communication, community, and service.  How wonderful to see how the members of each of the tribes would develop if their collective focus was on the needs of the entire Community; and they focus on service first and leading next (Greenleaf, 2002).  They would work together to build a shelter, start and maintain a fire, find drinkable water, hunt for and cook food as a family, and make sure everyone felt valued, challenged, healthy, appreciated, and heard.  It would not only be a better “experiment” but a better example for aspiring and emerging leaders.

Immunity IdolNow back to Karma.  I mentioned Colton was feeling some pain toward the end of the episode.  Well although I predict Colton’s strategy would have backfired on him eventually — his appendix ended his game sooner.  Colton was diagnosed with an acute appendicitis and was ordered to leave the game. It is hard to ignore that Colton was the architect of his own fate.  (Note that it was later disclosed that Colton actually suffered from a severe bacterial infection in his stomach and intestines.) Colton did not disappoint and was evil until the bitter end.  Given the option by Jeff Probst to give his immunity idol to another castaway before he was carted away on a stretcher, Colton decided to keep it as a souvenir.  Another brilliantly selfish move.

Let’s hope that Survivor: One World Post-Colton is as exciting and a bit more compassionate.


References:


For more suggestions on must-read LEADERSHIP books, check out this PCPop blog post:


For more on Survivor Leadership, check out these PCPop blog posts:





Survivor Leadership, Chapter 2 — Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

In body image, CBS, diversity, homophobia, Leadership, Malavenda, Mob Wives, Pablo Malavenda, Pop Culture, Reality TV, self-fulfilling prophecy, sexism, Survivor, Survivor Cook Island, survivor women, TV shows, Uncategorized on February 28, 2012 at 7:36 am



Before reading this PC Pop blog post, you may want to first read the first post about Survivor and Leadership: Survivor Leadership, Chapter 1 — The Leadership Primer


Survivor: One World premiered on February 15, 2012 with a big programming announcement – a game twist.  The latest and 24th session of Survivor would have single sex tribes sharing the same camp site. Immediately the reality TV bloggers around the world began commenting on the differences between women and men.  After only two episodes, Survivor: One World has many examples of Jeff Probsthow women and men behave when used in this (cruel) experiment of human nature.  Jeff Probst told the women at tribal council, ” “You’re off to one of the worst starts ever in this game because of the absolute and total dysfunction within this group. It’s almost like I’m talking to sixth-graders.”

As you know from my blog “Survivor Leadership” this is a grand experiment bound to teach you many lessons about LEADERSHIP. B-U-T…Don’t kid yourself that you will learn anything about the difference between the sexes, or among the genders. As spectators and fans we convince ourselves that the selection process for reality TV show cast members is similar to a job interview.  You could not be more wrong.  In a job interview, the employer is (most of the time) attempting to vet the candidates to determine who would be the most experienced, best fit, and have the greatest chance of succeeding.  Smart employers even try to balance out their existing team by looking at diversity and including individuals with different experiences and backgrounds.  This includes a balance of view points, leadership styles, behavior types and yes, gender balance.  Many employers today are attempting to give individuals a chance who historically would not have had opportunities — debunking stereo-types and breaking glass ceilings. This is NOT how the “employers” hire the contestants on Survivor or any other reality show.

The producers and casting are first and foremost trying to get you to tune in and stay tuned in. A quick study of TV shows with high ratings will prove that train wrecks sell tickets. (By the way — young, skinny, shirtless models sell too.) As a producer you can create an Rupert and Pabloenvironment on the set of a reality TV show that not only encourages train wrecks but they also become down right inevitable. And we fall for it – slowing down traffic to rubber neck to see the blood and gore.  We are attracted to accidents, and we also want to be the first to tweet about it.  We love when we are a part of a story that is trending. Beyond casting only those who reinforce negative stereotypes, they do unnatural things like separate genders, separate tribes by age, include former Survivor cast members like Boston Rob or Rupert or Jerry Manthey, create redemption island, put scorned cast members on the jury, have tribes share a camp without giving them equal resources, and force individuals to give their Immunity Idol to someone from the other tribe.  Yes, they even, during the season Survivor Cook Islandsof Survivor: Cook Islandsdivided the contestants into four tribes by ethnicity: African-AmericanAsian AmericanHispanic American, and White American. All of these tactics are designed to create that proverbial train wreck. Add dysfunctional cast members and the behavior will look familiar — a self-fulfilling prophecy — giving you a reason to reinforce your (false) beliefs even if they are

biased or bigoted or sexist or homophobic or racist or ageist — not to mention the issues with body image. Even Jeff Probst’s reaction to the women in tribal council reinforces these beliefs.

Survivor One World - Women's Tribe

So, when you find yourself at the water-cooler or blogging or tweeting about Survivor, please refrain from commenting on how this grand experiment teaches us anything about the differences in the sexes or races or the young and older.  Because it DOESN’T.  Quite contrary, reality shows are giving you what you want presumably based on ratings — an exaggerated look at the most vile and negative stereotypes that we have been taught about each other.  Don’t fall for it.  Crusade against it, if you wish.  By all means, enjoy it as a guilty pleasure.  But be smart enough to know that stereotypes, especially negative ones, rarely have any value in an advanced society like ours.

Now — I have to scoot. The Mob Wives marathon is about to start.



Read more about studying Leadership while watching the CBS reality TV show, Survivor, in the PCPop blog posts: