Alfred Hitchcock, the noted film director, was known for making a cameo appearances in his movies. A game among many moviegoers was to watch the films and locate the scenes where Mr. Hitchcock made his guest appearance. Celebrities use this technique, to gain publicity, boost interest in a movie, and increase sales. Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame adapted this philosophy to playfully insert himself in Marvel movies to excite his fan base.
The concept of cameo appearances can also be applied to leaders. The idea of brief appearances fits the style of many leaders. Cameo Leadership could be defined as a positive or negative leadership style, characterized by a leader influencing direct reports through a series of brief exposures. The style is condoned or condemned by subordinates, based on their value to employee development.
The Cameo Leader™ may fall into two categories, negative and positive. The Negative Cameo Leader is like an absentee landlord. They abdicate their responsibility, and you can’t find them when you need them. The Negative Cameo Leader shows up for a moment without warning. Their interactions lack positive values and developmental opportunities. They arrive on the scene, ready to take center stage, absorbing all the attention and accolades available. They poison the environment in a dictatorial and authoritarian manner. They relish being the boss, as they give orders before practicing their disappearing act.
In the Negative Cameo, the NC Leader will give out an assignment without instructions or supervision. When positive recognition is dispensed upon their department, they will accept the praise and bask in the limelight, and refuse to share the glory. Employees are frustrated because they are deprived of the encouragement and developmental opportunities needed for their growth. Careers suffer because the Negative Cameo Leader is not familiar with their employees, their work ethic, or their work product. They cannot vouch for their direct reports’ performances for they do not have an intimate knowledge of their career aspirations.
The Negative Cameo Leader does not take an interest in the work of their employees or in their lives outside of work. Therefore, they do not deserve or receive loyalty from their people. The Negative Cameo Leader can become a micromanager when they pop up on the scene, drop a few demoralizing comments, and disappear. What they label as individual freedom is a dereliction of duty.
Seagull leadership is where the manager flies overhead, swoops down, and dumps on their people before moving on. This is the hallmark trait of the Negative Cameo Leader.
The Positive Cameo Leader is admired because they are with their people in the beginning during the planning phase. They share the vision and provide the resources and support to do their jobs. They give them responsibility and hold them accountable for the completion of their assignments. They value and trust their employees’ skills, abilities, and judgment. They are encouraging and believe in their people and provide independence because they trust their ability to do the job and forgive them when they make mistakes. People know where they stand with the Positive Cameo Leader, for they have an open-door policy and dispense feedback generously.
In the Situational Leadership model by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, the leader would delegate responsibilities based on the development level of the employee. The peak performer would receive independence and less direction and support because they have earned it.
The Positive Cameo Leader will visit periodically to see if their people need anything. The job and the responsibilities belong to the employee. The PC Leader creates a culture of collaboration and ownership. They ensure that people think and act like an owner, for they will be held accountable for results. They are not unnecessarily visible; however, they are accessible through a variety of methods.
The Positive Cameo Leader ensures that those who do the work, receive the credit, and the accolades. They look for ways to set their people up for success through encouragement. Positive Cameo Leadership when practiced requires the leader to unselfishly accept their role in working for their people. They are willing to act and pay the price as they practice what they preach.
Cameo Leadership can have a negative or positive perception based on how employees respond to this leadership style. If it is negative, it is corrosive and is a barrier to career development. The Rosenthal effect created by Dr. Robert Rosenthal of Harvard University is the phenomenon in which experimenters treat subjects differently based on their expectations which has a positive or negative influence on subject performance. The Rosenthal effect is evaluated in four categories. They are climate, input, output, and feedback.
Cameo Leadership may be present at various stages of an organization, team, or individual’s development. For example, Positive Cameo Leadership is ideal for an individual or team that is highly skilled and does not require much supervision. A negative cameo is not desirable in most situations.
Cameo Leadership™ impacts the workplace environment. The leader’s expectations of their people determine the climate. Favorable or unfavorable expectations will create a positive or negative interpersonal climate for each individual. Secondly, leadership input, in the form of information and opportunities, is based on positive and negative expectations. Leaders teach more to those whom they expect more and conversely. Thirdly, the output is defined by the level of questions accepted or encouraged by their subordinates. We give them more opportunities to express their questions. This is also based on expectations. Lastly, the Positive Cameo Leader gives feedback that builds or diminishes self-esteem and performance and will praise or criticize for mistakes, in accordance with their level of expectations. The objective is to be a Positive Cameo Leader and minimize Negative Cameo Leadership tendencies.
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