Why So Many Leaders Are Like Miley Cyrus

mileyAs I’m sure many of you did, I watched MTV’s Video Music Awards aka #VMAs2013. As there is from all of the awards shows, there was a lot to learn from the video music awards. Culture, Agenda, Style, Pushing The Limits, Trying Too Hard, History, Generational Gaps, Class, The Fact That Justin Timberlake is Timeless and the list goes on and on.

One of the more astonishing things to watch from the 2013 VMA’s was the performance of Miley Cyrus. It wasn’t just the fact that the performance was weird, ridiculous, unnecessary and that it made you feel sorry for Miley.

The performance for me made me really pause and think for a moment. It made me ask some questions and really think about Miley and what’s going on in and around her. Questions like: What is she thinking? Why is she thinking it? Is she oblivious to what’s going on around her?

After her performance I sent this simple tweet:

“That awkward moment when everyone can see the train wreck coming except for the one driving the train. – Miley Cyrus”

That tweet was retweeted countless times as it resonated with many people who saw the performance and felt the same way that I did.

One thing that I always try to do is draw leadership and life parallels to almost any and everything. As I was watching Miley it made me think about “Why So Many Leaders Are Like Miley Cyrus.” Here is the deal, I don’t hold Miley totally responsible for the train wreck road that she’s going down, I blame those around her and those closest to her. Those closest to her and those she is choosing to listen to are the ones saying, “Be yourself Miley, it’s okay, don’t listen to the haters or they are choosing to remain silent to the Miley train that is screeching down the tracks of destruction.”

I see this same scenario with leaders all the time. Although they may not be running around with a teddy bear onesie, horned pig tails, half naked, with a posse wearing teddy bear backpacks; however they are making poor decisions and creating destructive cultures. Even more problematic, those closest to the leader and those at the highest levels in the organization are often cheering on the negative leadership behavior or standing on the sidelines remaining silent to the leadership train screeching down the road of destruction.

Every leader and high profile person always has an inner circle that will either help keep them accountable or sit and watch their train come completely off the tracks. “Yes Men and Yes Women” are never the answer… Choose your inner circle wisely.

  • Thank you for these words.
    It was painful, sad, and at times frustrating watching her perform.
    I just kept asking myself, “What happened to miley cyrus?”

    I think the same can be said for leadership. It is not in the moment that people might ask that question, “what happened to ________________?” But farther down the line, when it has revealed itself how off they are as a leader. That is when the questions start to happen.

    It seems that in leadership these days, we find someone who has potential, stick them in place, and let them lead. Only to be confused when half the church staff quits, are not performing, or express their frustration on a daily basis. That is when the questions come, when it is to late.

    • ScottWilliams

      Very well said Kyle… Unfortunately turnover and frustration are masked with the “They Couldn’t Handle Our Culture” line of thinking.

  • Derwin L. Gray

    Great insight Scott.

    • ScottWilliams

      Thanks “D”

  • Bernie

    Scott, I can’t help but be reminded of a younger and even older (now) Madonna. Though Madonna seemed a bit more sophisticated, and planned. Miley seems lost and wandering.

    • ScottWilliams

      I have seen some interviews and some of her rationalization for change makes sense, the type of change is where it becomes problematic.

  • Jesse Carbo

    A great followup article would be “How to help leaders around you avoid train wrecks”. The implications of this are wide I know but it would be a great discussion to learn how to effectively help those above me, beside me, and below me from avoiding leadership pitfalls or train wrecks as you put it.

    • ScottWilliams

      Thanks fro the assignment… I’ll tackle that soon.

  • Insecurity and people pleasing can make monsters out of anyone. I’ve seen bizarre behavior and compromise in many leaders all in the name of conformity and relevance.

    We, as leaders, and simply as Christians, must choose to find the courage and conviction to be the person God has created us to be. To walk in His footsteps and obey His instructions. Our love for others must come from the Father’s heart and not some need to be liked or admired.

    “Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

    Great thoughts Scott! Thank you.
    — I didn’t watch the VMA’s but I have seen Miley recently and my heart was broken. I’m praying for her. Now, I need to look in the mirror and see IF any ‘miley’ is in me too…

    • ScottWilliams

      Thanks Chilly… you always bring a smooth and well calculated perspective.

      “We, as leaders, and simply as Christians, must choose to find the courage and conviction to be the person God has created us to be.”

  • deandeguara

    I didn’t watch the VMA’s but with Miley in the headlines a lot lately you can’t help to think she’s making some bad choices. Sad to see what she’s becoming.

    • ScottWilliams

      My son asked… “what happened to Hannah Montana?”

      • deandeguara

        LOL! That’s the problem…she’s trying to break the Hannah Montana image by breaking away drastically from her values. I don’t think it’s working. Leaders that use the shock factor get attention usually fade out quickly.

  • …adam

    Even the content of the song she was performing makes me think of how, as leaders, we put our head down and fight for our vision without really taking in wise council. “It’s my party we can do what we want, say what we want…” I know a lot of leaders who have played that card, and it’s a dangerous line to walk, especially while we are surrounded by people constantly saying yes to us. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing.

    • ScottWilliams

      totally agree… It’s my part and my way or the highway really gets leaders in trouble. Yes men and yes women are good for awhile but trouble in the end.

  • cwize

    Well-written, Scott. Sharing…

    • ScottWilliams

      Thx for reading

  • Joe Vargas

    Great leaders create a mechanism for honest feedback. To do otherwise is hubris to the extreme.

    • ScottWilliams

      Yessir – Honest feedback is so crucial and often so missing.

  • I agree, but, I dont understand why we watch this in the first place. I know I dont and wont, I just get no value.

    • ScottWilliams

      that’s a worthy question: It’s all not bad and it’s important to understand that these people are influencing millions upon millions of people and millions upon millions of future world changers.

  • Kanten

    Well said

    • ScottWilliams

      Thx Kanten

  • Anthony K Goodwin

    Great post.

    • ScottWilliams

      Thanks Anthony

  • Impavido

    When I saw Miley Cyrus’ performance I honestly thought she was suffering from some hallucinogenic drug. However, her performance was disturbing to say the least.

    • ScottWilliams


  • Damon

    The whole performance reminded me of something Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park. It regards to the park, he said something on the lines of: “You’ve been so busy thinking about whether you could, you forgot to ask whether you should”. Weird analogy, I know. But, I suppose Miley is trying to break free of her Hannah Montana identity and show the world how “grown up” she has become. The “YES” people in her life must tell her that is ok…worrying about whether she can rather than if she should. The train she is conducting is most definitely headed for a collision.

    • ScottWilliams

      very very well said… perfect analogy.

      “You’ve been so busy thinking about whether you could, you forgot to ask whether you should”

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