Advance Performance | Leadership and Teamwork Lessons from Celebrity Island
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Leadership and Teamwork Lessons from Celebrity Island

Leadership and Teamwork Lessons from Celebrity Island

Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls is the latest challenge reality show. The celebs are “dumped” on an island and “left” to survive for a month. The leadership and teamwork strategies shown by the participants are as relevant to business as they are to “survival”.

The person with the loudest voice is not automatically the best leader.

Iwan Thomas, the athlete, bounded on to the island with masses of enthusiasm, and a huge ego to match. Before he arrived, he said he viewed himself as THE Alpha Male and leader because of his competitiveness, enthusiasm, and determination. In the first episode, he was loud, and immediately took control so others followed. He led the others in circles around a jungle trying to find the beach to set up camp without any plan other than a gut instinct the beach was in a particular direction. It wasn’t.

As the group worked on different tasks from fishing, searching for water, building a shelter, and cooking, the person with a quieter persona but with sensible ideas, a sense of teamwork, and maturity has taken on the leadership role of the quieter more determined group. Shazia Mirza, the comedian, has proved a far more effective leader when decisions were needed to assign tasks, and forming plans to achieve their goals to survive. The quieter woman who discussed rather than gave orders, and listened to others showed the introverted leader was far more successful that the loud extrovert one.

The loudest voice and most extrovert personality do not create the most effective leader in  business. A more introverted person who listens to others, leads by example, and is willing to learn is far more effective.

Ensure you meet the survivalist priorities first.

You will be aware of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from the Advance courses as part of leadership and motivational psychology. In order to achieve your unique potential (self actualisation), you need to ensure all the lower levels of needs are met first.  The first need on Maslow’s pyramid is physiological – water, food, shelter, sleep – which are all required to ensure survival of an individual and a team.  As this celeb team had failed to find water when they first set up camp and used up their water supplies without rationing them, this led to dehydration in some individuals within a day. Lack of food caused hallucinations and extreme exhaustion in others, and overall a breakdown in the community – because their basic needs to survive were not met first.

In business, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs continues to be relevant today – the physiological needs and a safe place to work are essential for every employee to achieve a company’s targets, team goals, and their own potential.

Preparation is key for success

You would think that individuals who sign up to a project would do their research and gain skills needed for the project. If you were going to be living on an island and would need to build a fire, catch fish, find water, and cook, you would learn the skills required to be successful.

Unsurprisingly, it has been Shazia Mirza who knew you need to follow the animal tracks to find water – rather than just heading off into the jungle with no plan and hoping to find it. She was the person who had learned how to prepare the meat and fish (even though she is vegetarian) so that the team could eat. Shazia and Sharron Davies were the only skilled swimmers able to dive into the sea and check the net for fish. When Sharron left the island due to homesickness, the group was left with only one person able to retrieve fish from the sea and feed the camp.

Be like Shazia: do your research and prepare before starting work on a goal!

Behave like a leader by example – A positive attitude needs to lead to positive behaviour in a leader in order to motivate a team and ensure they work together.

In one incident, Iwan Thomas gathered the group and gave them a pep talk – as he believed, he was motivating them to work as a team, be positive, and gather water and food for the day. After he finished his pep talk, he went to sleep whilst the group assigned themselves the tasks to be done to maintain the camp. Iwan is a great example of someone who wanted to motivate others by what he said, but did not motivate by his behaviour.

Leading and motivating a team is not simply by giving a pep talk and leaving the group to get one with the task. A culture of trust and shared goals starts with an influential leader who behaves as a strong role model, and shares the experience with the whole team.

Respect each team member and encourage sharing of skills and working together.

It is shocking to see the subconscious misogynist attitude take over when individuals are placed in a survival situation, and to see women with far more experience and skills being ignored because the “Alpha Males” are competing to be the leader because they believe it is their place. They even have refused to listen to the participant who is a doctor on the essentials needed, and the care that must be given to each other to survive.

In 2017, we need to celebrate diversity, respect our differences, our uniqueness as individuals which come together to create an effective team.

Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls has shown how easily the individuals with the loudest voices and biggest egos can take over a group, leading them in the wrong direction or a more complex route to achieving a goal. Taking time to listen to each individual in a team, respecting their skills, experience and unique expertise that they can contribute to a team is essential in any project.

Leadership and motivation for a team’s success is the result of setting a standard in behaviour as well as in attitude. It’s not what you say but what you do that leads to success – and even survival.