I’m sitting here, probably ill-advisedly, watching The X Factor whilst I write this.  A few minutes ago, as yet another commercial came along and I nipped into the kitchen for emergency Stilton supplies, it dawned on me.

This programme gets more and more boring as every week goes by.

Nothing manufactured about him, is there?

Nothing manufactured about him, is there?

My thoughts turned to trying to work out why this is, and as Louis Walsh doled out yet more of his vanilla “let me be your friend” feedback, it dawned on me.

The reason the series becomes less and less interesting is because the performers gradually have their individuality replaced by “the professionals”.

They evolve from quirky self-taught artists with an above-average level of passion and commitment into products designed for mass-market appeal.  They are no longer their authentic selves.  And as a result they become less interesting.

Which of course gets me thinking about authenticity in the workplace.  Are the leaders we really look up to the ones who have not lost their ability to hold on to their true selves?  The ones who have not forgotten their roots, and are happy to display vulnerability and humanity, even if it might be interpreted as weakness?

When we try and replicate success using some sort of magic formula, just as they do in X Factor, we risk producing “here today, gone tomorrow” heroes.  How many X Factor finalists from previous years can YOU name?  I can manage 2.  Maybe I’m the wrong age group (almost certainly, in fact), but I don’t think that’s the issue.

Vanilla is just not a memorable flavour.

Memorable and inspirational leadership needs to be real, original. clunky and above all true to itself.

People know that.  Hence the various attempts to knock X Factor off its perch for the number one Christmas hit.  In 2012, a tribute to victims in the Hillsborough football disaster knocked the X Factor winner James Arthur (remember him?  Thought not!) into second position.

I’m told that AC/DC are in the running to do the same thing this year (a nifty Facebook campaign and the excuse of it being their 40th anniversary or something.)  Now there’s a couple of authentic rockers if ever I saw one.  Here, for your personal delectation, is the 2013 Christmas Number One if authenticity has anything to do with it.  “Highway to Hell” – now there’s a lovely title to celebrate Christmas with!


Let’s hear it for the rookies!  Unpolished is fine.  Talented helps.  True to who you are is essential.