Posts Tagged ‘paula deen’

This is not the post I had planned for this blog today. However, it is clear to me that everyone – from the media all the way to Paula Deen – is missing the bigger picture of the core issue at the heart of this story.

As a side note, I shake my head continually at the situational ethics and twisted logic that a lot of people are approaching this story with. The heart of this story is not about a lack of forgiveness, about “casting stones,” about defaming Paula Deen (she did that all by herself by her lack of quintessential leadership without any help from anyone else).

It is, instead, a cautionary tale that all of us, and especially those of us who are quintessential leaders, need to look into the mirror of and see where and if we see our own reflections. If we miss that in all of this, then we’ve missed the whole point. 

The core issue of this situation with Paula Deen is that she lacks the unimpeachable character, the irrefutable integrity, the unwavering values, the non-negotiable adherence to and upholding of the highest of standards personally and professionally, and the evident humility of a quintessential leader. 

Paula Deen Today Show 6-26-13Increasingly, the story has zeroed in on a single aspect of Paula Deen’s deposition in response to a lawsuit filed by a former employee (who, for the record, is not African-American and who had quite a bit of responsibility at several of Paula Deen’s restaurants) raising the specter that Deen is prejudiced against African-Americans.

Paula Deen herself has waffled all over the place about this one part of a much bigger problem, so it’s really unclear exactly where she stands. And that’s consistent with a lack of unimpeachable character. When you don’t have a solid foundation of anything that is absolute in life, the floor constantly shifts on you from moment to moment.

But the charges of racism are only one part of a larger picture of who Paula Deen is and how she has failed as a quintessential leader both personally and professionally throughout her career. If you want the whole picture, you can read the former employee’s lawsuit here and Paula Deen’s deposition here.

Paula Deen fails the quintessential leader test in several areas. The first is setting and adhering to the highest set of standards of conduct (behavior, which includes speech and action) and requiring that everyone on the team adhere to them too. When people on the team fail to adhere to them, the remedial process to change or go is begun and if there’s no change, those people go. No matter who they are.

A telling quote from Paula Deen’s interview on the Today show this morning reveals her lack of understanding of leadership and her lack of ability to lead: “It’s very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other. … I think for this problem to be worked on, these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other.”

Paula Deen is in the leadership position and it is her job to set the standard of what is acceptable and what isn’t in her kitchens. She, as she has done since the beginning of all this, once again puts the responsibility somewhere else, instead of taking it herself. If she didn’t allow this kind of behavior in her restaurants – which clearly she does – she wouldn’t be hearing it at all there.

This is Paula Deen’s fundamental blind spot. She seems to have absolutely no comprehension of what her role as a leader is. This seems to be another case of someone who’s really good at a skill, but who should have never been in a leadership position because she’s not equipped to do it.

Once a person in a leadership position, as Paula Deen has time and again, allows, tolerates, and accepts compromise and exceptions to what is generally considered appropriate and right behavior, first in themselves and then with others, they have failed as quintessential leaders.

Once compromise and exceptions enter the picture, character is negatively impacted, and this is the second area where Paula Deen fails the quintessential leader test.

Paula Deen doesn’t see anything intrinsically wrong with any of the behavior in either the former employee’s lawsuit or in her own deposition. The casualness with which she accepts unacceptable behavior in speech and in action – and even does it herself – shows defective character.

Character is a big deal. Every choice, every decision, every thought impacts our character. That impact can either be positive or negative.

The more we negatively impact our character, the less we will care about right and wrong and good and bad and the looser our standards of what’s “okay,” “normal,” and “acceptable” will be.

This is unquintessential leadership. Quintessential leaders know character matters and we know that everything we do and our teams do reflect on our character.

We know you can do one hundred things right and one thing wrong, and the one wrong thing, unless we tackle it head on by admitting it, fixing it, and changing it so that it doesn’t happen again, can be what defines us the rest of our lives.

This is what Paula Deen is not doing and why she is not a quintessential leader.

The reality is that Paula Deen has hit a watershed moment in her life. This could be a time of real change for her.

This, believe it or not, is not unfixable. The fixing will be painful and embarrassing and will cost Paula Deen a lot in effort, money, and reputation. But the result would be worth it in the end.

But if you don’t understand that anything’s wrong, which Paula Deen doesn’t seem to, and you cannot accept the responsibility for your failures as a leader, which Paula Deen has never addressed, and your way of dealing with it is to cast a wide net of blame and responsibility on others by playing the victim and indulging in self-pity, then change will not happen. At least not now.

Paula Deen confirmed that this morning with her statement that “I is who I is and I’m not changing.”

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.