Celebrities acting badly

It seems whenever a celebrity gets into trouble, our in-house psychologist, James Houran (“Dr. Jim”), gets a call. He has studied the “cult of celebrity” from a psychological standpoint, and the press wants to understand why a particular celebrity acted so badly. This time around the topic was the “apparent” scandal over Beyoncé’s lip-syncing at the recent U.S. presidential inauguration. The simple question of whether she did or didn’t lip sync has caused a fervor in the public psyche. Why?

Well, the answer is in the notion of “behavioral integrity” (BI). BI is defined as the extent to which one person perceives that another lives by his or her word, keeps promises and lives by professed values. When a celebrity’s or leader’s actions and words don’t mesh, trust and loyalty suffers.

In a business context, CEOs are essentially “internal celebrities.” If fans of Beyoncé feel so betrayed regarding an act of no real consequence, imagine the impact when the violation involves people and situations with genuine relevance.

Business leaders need to understand the impact of their words and actions on the people they serve. I caution leaders to think before they act and view their role as one of service. If leaders thinks they are above their constituency or can pull the wool over their eyes, they are dead.