For all the talk about what makes a good leader, one show is illustrating how hard it is to manage people. The trick of it is, most of its viewers have no idea they are getting crucial lessons on leadership. They think they are watching a “reality show” about hair salons.

Tabitha’s Salon Takeover should be required viewing for every MBA student in the nation. Somehow, in 44 minutes and commercials, someone is able to evaluate a business’ issues (be it personnel, systems, accounting, inventory, or leadership), get their hands dirty by showing what changes need to be made, and comes back weeks later to see if the changes have been successful (and have stuck).

If only business consultants could do as much.

Yes, knowing the industry helps. Yes, having a blonde British vixen show us yanks what fools we are is fun. But time after time, the lesson Tabitha teaches is: be honest and demand accountability. The rest is details.

How many businesses are run into the ground because the owner doesn’t know how to be honest, they don’t realize that choosing favorites creates division (especially when coupled with denials about having a favorite) , are scared to tell an employee that they aren’t doing a good job and then explode, seemingly without cause because those bottled up frustrations get out eventually, setting expectations for employees and holding them accountable for those expectations (and not letting an employee weasel out of a tough conversation with accusations of “I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to do that” or “I’m having a bad day”), and holding themselves accountable to their employees.

Side note. Yes, I was there the day an employee caught surfing naughty pictures online and was allowed to keep their job because they said, “You never said I couldn’t do that!” Oh really? Then why exactly were you trying to hide your actions? I never would have thought to try a trick like that. Not in a million years.

Anyway, there’s Tabitha, telling this employee that she needs more training directly and without equivocation (and there’s the employee’s ostensible boss, shaking with fear behind Tabitha, finally seeing what leadership is all about). And there’s Tabitha, explaining to the owner that not being there was creating a vacuum of power and no on was stepping in to fill it, thus leading the shop to certain doom unless they stepped up. And there’s Tabitha showing the salon employees, who are really self-employed for the most part, learning about marketing, the value of repeat business and up-selling.

No jargon. No bullshit. Just Tabitha saying what’s true and some people freaking out, creating unnecessary drama. Good TV.

Side note. I was working for a software company years ago who sold enterprise flooring software to flooring manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The software pretty much took over every part of the business, from inventory to AR/AP to POS. Well, here we were in LA, installing the software and training everyone (it took a week) on how to use it and on day one, one employee was relentless in voicing their complaints every time they perceived something as wrong. It went on all day and it was easy to see the effect it was having on everyone. At the end of the day, the owner gathered everyone together to thank everyone for their hard work and ended his speech with something along the lines of , “This new system is our future. If you don’t like this software, then you don’t like our future and I invite you to find your own future elsewhere.” The entire time he was looking at the one complaining employee and everyone knew it. The next day, that guy was a tiger, eager to learn everything he could about the new system.

That’s what real leadership is: being honest and demanding accountability from every player in the game.

Tabitha knows it.