Paula Deen, in the way she has conducted herself at every step of the way in her current situation, has shown herself to be an unquintessential leader.

First, Paula Deen showed – in case you think this is “no big deal” – herself to be a bully (this falls under the unquintessential leadership trait of bullying) and to have a prevailing lack of personal integrity and self-discipline.

Part of personal integrity is having and demonstrating respect for everyone. Personal integrity also has high standards of conduct and will not engage in – or allow – behavior or speech that denigrates and disrepects another human being. Self-discipline enforces personal integrity.

Second, after Paula Deen had failed on this part of quintessential leadership, although she had opportunities to redeem herself and prove that she was a quintessential leader who made a mistake, but was eager to rectify it and make it right immediately, she continues to show unquintessential leadership.

The first thing a quintessential leader does when he or she realizes they’ve screwed up – and we all do it as long as we breathe for a living – is to correct it and make amends. Matthew 5:25 gives quintessential leadership advice on how to handle someone suing you.

Had Paula Deen been a quintessential leader, she would have initiated a one-on-one meeting with her former employee as soon as she learned of the lawsuit and Paula Deenapologized and asked her former employee how she could make amends to her. Granted that takes a lot of humility, which quintessential leaders also have, but it would have resolved the issue between them and the general public would have probably never heard about it.

Instead, Paula Deen responded to the lawsuit in a deposition that made it even more clear how little personal integrity and self-discipline she possesses. It’s enough to make all of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders cringe most of the way through it.

Her inability to see the seriousness and hurtfulness of her mindset – because how we think is how we talk and act – in her speech and behavior and to accept it as “okay” or “normal” is more proof that Paula Deen is an unquintesssential leader.

Inset statement here: All of us who are Southerners should be cringing as well and putting a lot of distance between ourselves and Paula Deen. Paula Deen does not and will never represent me as a Southerner. We are not all like that. I apologize on behalf of Paula Deen and tell you that her speech and her behavior is wrong, unacceptable, and should not and will not, by me anyway, be tolerated in any way, shape, or form.

After Paula Deen’s deposition became public, she once again had an opportunity to own up and make it right all the way around, as quintessential leaders will eventually do. She failed again.

Instead of taking responsibility and correcting everything on the spot, Paula Deen showed the unquintessential leadership trait of pointing the finger everywhere but at herself. She blamed the South and the time she grew up in as the reason she is a bigot and disrepectful in her treatment of and behavior and speech toward African-Americans.

When that statement became public, Paula Deen yet again had an opportunity to humble herself and be a quintessential leader and take full responsibility and commit to changing herself and making amends.

And, once again, she failed. Her three anemic attempts to “apologize” were not apologies. They did not include a sincere and heartfelt apology where she acknowledged that she was wrong, she needs to and will change, and she will make amends to everybody affected (not just her former employee who is suing).

Paula Deen made it obvious that, in her mind, she stills believes what she demonstrated in her speech and behavior toward this employee and her deposition, but she felt forced to do something to try to save her gig with the Food Network and keep her $17 million dollar brand from imploding.

But there was nothing real, sincere, humbled, or changed behind any of her words. As with all unquintessential leaders, it was talking the talk with no intention of walking the walk.

food-networkAfter seeing these three videos, the Food Network did indeed say they would not renew her contract when it expires at the end of the month.

That was the right thing for the Food Network to do.

And, you know what, I really hope at some point that Paula Deen comes around and understands, acknowledges, really apologizes, makes amends, and makes the changes she needs to make. That’s my prayer for her. She’s got a lot of talent, but a lot of talent doesn’t make you a good person, nor does it make you right, nor does it make you a quintessential leader. 

Now, as quintessential leaders, we need to take some time  to review our own mindsets and how that comes out in our speech and behavior. Do we have personal integrity and self-discipline? Do we care? Or do we just go along with whatever the people around us are doing?

Quintessential leaders set the highest standards for ourselves. And we adhere to them, not when it’s convenient, not when we feel like it, but all the time. Even if it means we’re standing all by ourselves. It’s an act of courage, as indeed our lives are lived by many acts of courage that often swim constantly against the prevailing tide of unquintessential leadership that exists just about everywhere today.

So, let’s be courageous and be the quintessential leaders we say we are striving to be. It’s not the easy path and it’s not a whole lot of fun sometimes, especially when we screw up, but it’s the only way that we’ve committed ourselves to be.

  1. DL Ross says:

    Although, I agree with some of this article…and yes, some missteps on Paula’s part, in all actuality we don’t know the whole story. Remember there are two sides to every story. Could this have been a disgruntled employee looking for compensation from a very wealthy family? If this were common in the workplace, where are all the other lawsuits? And remember the media loves to distort and manipulate facts. I’m saying, here’s a woman who was so afraid to walk out of her house at one point, who has overcome alot, and built an empire. And she she didn’t accomplish that by being a push over or a door mat. You call it bullying; I call it survival instincts. She has also given alot back to Savannah. Give her a break. Like us, she’s human. On this one we can agree to disagree. I stand by Paula. Debra Ross


  2. WB says:

    Methinks the author discovered a new word. The word “quintessential” or “quintessential” is used more than 20 times in the article–as many as 3 times in one sentence. Regardless of one’s opinion, the author seems unwilling to accept her apology, but veils personal feelings under religious garb. (My prayer for…) Sad…


  3. DL Ross says:

    Upon further reviews of court depositions for both sides, I must say my earlier reply was made in haste. While Paula did indeed overcome alot of adversity to build her empire; as this article points out her leadership and handling of internal affairs lacks quality and integrity.. What she and her brother did to their employees was wrong on so many levels. And the “attemtpts” to apologize were weak and staged….not from the heart. I recant my standing by her…I am Southern and this is not how I was raised to act nor do I act. And as for the word “quintessential” in this blog…that’s what it’s about. If you take the time to count the number of times it is used….then you missed the whole meaning of the blog. I recant my earlier reply based on proof and my upbringing.


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