Tom Arthur: Would you rather work for Don Trump or Michael Scott?
Michael Scott, cringes included, shows honesty in leadership is better than awesomeness.
I’m a little embarrassed to say this out loud, but it’s the time of year when I indulge my guilty pleasure: “Celebrity Apprentice.” Go ahead and groan. In my defense, how can a guy who grew up listening to Cyndi Lauper resist the temptation of watching her compete head to head with Rod Blagojevich?
I call it leadership development.
The real draw each season isn’t any of the contestants. It’s watching Donald Trump, slowly but surely, fire each celebrity but one. Where in the world does Trump get all that chutzpah? He always seems so confident. Maybe this is a trick of the producers and editors. They’re busy making everyone else look foolish and making Trump look like a rock star leader. If you want a cultural symbol of successful leadership, Trump is about as good it gets. He’s got hotels, money, women, and now his own show that a lot of other leaders (or ex-disgraced-governors) want to be on. Who wouldn’t want to be a leader like Donald Trump?
In contrast to Trump and his leadership style is my other guilty pleasure: “The Office.” I’m not sure which show offers more embarrassing moments. One is supposedly “real” and the other is “staged,” but somehow in every episode of “The Office,” Michael Scott (Steve Carell) makes me cringe with embarrassment. How I came to get over the cringe factor and enjoy the laugh factor is still a mystery to me. An even bigger mystery is that when I ask myself who I would rather be like as a pastor, Donald Trump or Michael Scott, Scott wins hands down every time. Ask yourself, would you rather work for Michael Scott or Donald Trump?
I couldn’t put my finger on my preference for Michael Scott over Donald Trump until the most recent episode of “The Office.” Cohesion in the office falls apart as the sales department becomes more important in the company and ends up getting bigger paychecks. All of a sudden money and success come into the story. Michael says that this office breakdown is because they used to “make friends first, make sales second.”
Here’s my leadership takeaway. “The Office” is the kind of place where friendship takes precedence over almost every other goal. When I first started watching I wondered why the characters didn’t just quit and go work someplace else. But then I realized that there is a deep honesty in the show, and honesty leads to commitment. People are who they are, even in all their embarrassing glory, and somehow they keep working together (but do they ever actually do any work?). Somehow Michael Scott holds all these people together amidst their eccentric personalities and crazy dysfunctions.
That’s a different kind of success than the kind that Trump symbolizes, and it’s the kind of success that a pastor should be aiming for. Sometimes successful pastoral leadership looks quite different than what the world calls success. Sometimes it looks like Michael Scott.
Tom Arthur is pastor of Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan.