As a Leader, What Can I Learn From The Hit Show "The Traitors"?
Nine lessons that we can put into our business life that will yield positive results
Traitors in the UK and American reality TV show that is hugely popular. In meetings with clients, it's being discussed as a water cooler moment. It's a well-produced and well-executed TV phenomenon.
So it's entertaining, but what can leaders learn from it?
Here IMHO are nine lessons we can learn
Lesson One : Learn The Rhythm of Intensity and Recovery
"Take a Breather to Keep the Energy High"
You know the drill – go, go, go! But even UK 'Traitors' host Claudia Winkleman knows that players (and teams) need a break for mental health.
The missions are just for the players’ mental health
Claudia Winkleman, UK Traitors presenter
We must embrace the natural rhythm of work, with peaks of intensity followed by valleys of recovery. It's like interval training for our brains. If we're always redlining it, our performance will begin to sputter.
A rhythm of intensity means effectiveness will continue to grow over time
Continuous intensity means effectiveness will plumett
Lesson Two : Never Forget The Power of Words
Choose Your Words, Shape Your World
The language is very emotive.
Tonight there is a murder ….
You have to banish someone ….
But if you take the language away, then what you have is the following
Two groups, let’s call them a Green team and a Purple team
A Green team - this team sits within a larger team and knows who each other are
A Purple team - a larger team, hidden within the Purple team are Green team members.
The Green team vote to drop one of the Purple team at regular intervals
The Purple team vote to drop members of the Purple team at regular intervals, in the hope of eliminating some of the Green team.
If you have that frame, a lot of the plays and lessons become clearer
It’s a social deduction game. You need to make sure you’ve got allies and bonds and be convincing in your theories. Ellie (UK Season 2 finalsit)
Lesson Three: Power Is Held By Those With Data-Driven Dominance
"Information is Power – Wield It Wisely"
In 'Traitors,' the 'traitors’ start strong because they have the info. But as numbers dwindle, the informed ‘faithfuls’ gain the upper hand.
It's essential that we understand that power is not held evenly across organisations.
True power resides in two areas of the organisation
The parts that control resources ( Typically HR - People and Finance - Money)
The parts that are solving critical business problems for the future
If you ask nearly everyone who has played the ‘Traitors’ game, they nearly always say they want to be a traitor because that is where power is held.
The obvious conclusion of this is to make sure you work in your organisation in one of the ‘Areas of Power.’
Lesson Four: Your strategy needs to be flexible, not fixed
"Stay Nimble, Stay Smart"
In the game, there are players who are able to detect who the traitors are, but if they expose this too early, they may NOT get enough support and then be murdered themselves.
Therefore, whilst you need a long-term plan, it should not be an execution plan that is fixed. It should be very flexible to 'press the button when the time is right'. Make moves when you can ‘read the room’.
The best strategies are always flexible. Want to know more on this point of what a good strategy is?
I suggest you read the work of my good friend and brilliant writer on this subject Michael Goitein.
Lesson Five: Your Leadership Needs To Be VariFocal
"Zoom In, Zoom Out – Keep Your Eyes on All Horizons"
Leadership requires a varifocal lens.
That means looking at the immediate tasks AND the long-term goals simultaneously.
By that I mean you have to look at the near horizon (this week) and the far horizon (Two to Three years)
It’s like a marathon race, which means we need to stay in the early part of the race, then get through the middle well and be around at the end.
When you are in the early part of the race, you have to be thinking about the middle game; In the middle, you have to be thinking about the end game.
Lesson Six: You Need To Play For The Round You’re In And The Rounds To Come
"Win the Moment, Plan the Next"
To win 'Traitors,' you've got to be the master of the here and now and the yet to come. The same applies to business rounds – nail the current quarter while eyeing the next. It's like chess; think moves ahead.
Lesson Seven: No One Thrives Unless You Build Alliances.
"Forge Bonds to Forge Ahead"
The ONLY alliance at the start is the chosen traitors. As soon as the game starts, alliances need to be made, and these become your strengths. Who do you have on your side? Who is against you? Have you built your alliances well?
In Traitors Season One USA, Cerie played this superbly.
By the time the final five emerged, she was embedded in both subgroups.
To the other remaining traitor she said, 'We are in it together until the end'’.
To the other two faithfuls she said, 'let’s agree to be the final three together; let’s make a pact.’
In the final gameplay, she was able to use both very effectively
In the corporate world, alliances can mean the difference between success and being left out in the cold. Cultivating relationships is a survival skill.
Lesson Eight: Make Decisions Based On Circumstances, Not Emotions.
"Keep a Level Head for Clear Choices"
Making decisions based on how we feel in the moment can be treacherous. Like in 'Traitors,' where emotional decisions can lead to a quick exit, we need to stay cool and assess the situation before committing. A great question to ask yourself is , “In a year’s time, how will I want to have reacted to this?”
Lesson Nine: Whatever Is Happening, It’s Never About You
"Keep the Ego in Check for the Greater Game"
In UK Traitors Season 2, one of the players got so upset about being seen as a sheep by others that he turned all the attention on himself during a pivotal moment and asked what people thought about him during the voting.
The result: he got voted out that night - mainly because other players were annoyed with him
Nine Lessons And Some Key Takeaways
I hope those nine lessons sparked some thoughts in you. And now for the final takeaways….
Balance Intensity with Downtime
The secret sauce to sustained performance is knowing when to push and when to pause. Imagine a team that works with the precision of a well-oiled machine, shifting gears effortlessly between high-octane projects and well-deserved breaks. This isn't just a productivity hack; it's a recipe for a happier, healthier, and more engaged team._
Every word is like a brushstroke in painting your company's culture. Choose them carefully. Picture a workplace where communication is clear, positive, and inspiring. It transforms the mundane into the extraordinary, where "challenges" are opportunities, and "deadlines" are finish lines in a race everyone is winning together._
Data is King
In the kingdom of business, data wears the crown. Envision a realm where information flows freely, empowering every level of the hierarchy and allowing for decisions that are strategic, swift, and smart. It's a place where foresight is valued as much as insight, and understanding the numbers is as crucial as understanding the people.
A great strategy is not a static blueprint but a living entity that is able to adapt and evolve. It's a world where businesses pivot with the grace of a dancer, where plans are hypotheses tested and refined in the real world. This is where flexibility becomes a competitive advantage, and the ability to respond to change is as important as the initial plan.
Think of a game where the players are so focused on the collective win that individual accolades become secondary. This is where true teamwork shines, where no one is gunning for the spotlight because they understand that success comes from unity, not solo runs. It's a lesson in humility, where the ego takes a back seat to the greater good.
These aren't just reality show antics but life and leadership lessons in disguise. Use them to play the long game in business and come out on top.
Go forth and lead like a 'Traitor' or a ‘Faithfull’ —strategically, flexibly, and with a keen eye on the prize.
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