Fyre Festival Debacle Contains Potential Leadership Lessons

Netflix has been making headlines with a number of high-quality and popular original documentaries, movies, and series over the last several years, including hits like House of Cards and Bird Box. One recent documentary also gained a lot of attention, not just because it was well made but also because its subject is still fresh in people’s minds.

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The Fyre Festival Debacle

The Fyre Festival documentary chronicles the disastrous Fyre music festival put on by young entrepreneur and scam artist Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule. The festival was marketed as a luxury event for the young, rich, and hip and was located on a private beach in the Bahamas, with beautiful people, parties, and great music. What resulted was anything but luxurious.

Forbes Contributor Jack Kelly argues that McFarland serves as a good example of what not to be as a leader. He points to McFarland’s “fanciful hype and over-promises,” his “horrendous management style,” and his hiring of “inexperienced, naive and gullible staff” as contributing to the disastrous event.

A Leadership Fail

“McFarland’s misleading promises of luxury villas was met with shabby tents procured from a prior natural disaster and soaking wet mattresses after an unexpected rainstorm hit the island. There was little food and what was available was inedible. The musical groups canceled or just didn’t show up. It was a complete failure.”

Anyone who watched the documentary would almost certainly agree that McFarland exemplified traits of a charismatic leader. He always seemed to have the answers and was perpetually optimistic.

However, Kelly notes that much of McFarland’s persona was built on lies. There are numerous examples in the documentary when McFarland refused to take advice from his closest lieutenants, preferring to push ahead in secrecy and deception.

Key Takeaways

Business leaders can take plenty away from this dystopian example. First, being truthful and transparent is a critical business leadership trait. Second, surround yourself with good people. Third, listen to them!

It’s not just the positive stories of business success that can teach us important lessons about leadership; sometimes, we can learn a lot from abject failures, as well.