What Kind of Leader is Jillian Michaels and What do You Need from Your Leader?

150 150 Ellen Ensher
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“Unless you faint, puke, or die, keep walking!” exhorts Jillian Michaels to contestants on TV’s Biggest Loser. I confess I have a love-hate feeling about Jillian Michael’s leadership style with her trainees. When I first started watching, I hated her leadership style and found it to be abrasive and ineffective. But something has changed. Is it some weird kind of TV show Stockholm syndrome? Nope, I think I like watching Jillian more because she noticed that her leadership style was not working and she sought out feedback and made some changes. Don’t get me wrong- she still kicks butt but she kicks butt differently depending on who she is talking to.

As we journey through our careers, we will encounter many different types of leaders and mentors and not all will be a fit for us at a given time. In my class this week in which we study organizational behavior and human resource management, we are taking a look at leadership. We are looking at the difference between job-centered leadership style and employee-centered leadership style. Job centered is defined as a leadership style that emphasizes employee tasks and the methods used to accomplish them. Employee-centered leadership style emphasizes employees’ personal needs and the development of interpersonal relationships (Hitt, Miller, & Colella, 2011). Early research found that both worked but that in general employee-centered was generally found to be more effective. Later research into leadership was more sophisticated and found that the most effective leaders were those in which their style changed or was contingent upon the needs of the situation. So, some contestants might need to be yelled at whereas others need psycho-analyzing and coaxing. The trick is knowing what to do with whom and when.

How would you like if Jillian Michael’s was your boss at work? Would you thrive or merely survive? Or quit and walk away as some contestants have done? If you had to pick a Biggest Loser trainer leader to be your boss, who would it be?