Former White House press chief Sean Spicer – who played a pivotal role in shaping media coverage of Donald Trump’s earliest months as President – has raised eyebrows by turning up as a surprise, onstage guest during this year’s Emmy Awards.
Spicer even attempted to poke fun at himself and his old role by sending up comedian Melissa McCarthy’s send-up of him – appearing behind a lectern that he could push around the stage on wheels. While the comical appearance before a clearly shocked Hollywood crowd – many members of which have been fiercely critical of Trump’s Presidency – created a significant buzz, it doesn’t look as though Spicer’s long-term prospects are in any way buoyant, following his abrupt departure from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Indeed, NBC has reported that Spicer’s approaches to TV outlets to work as a “paid contributor” (ie, in-house, professional pundit) have fallen flat, with one, anonymous insider saying “they won't touch him”. The media executive added: “The news organisations might use him on roundtables, but [a paid contributor job] is not happening.” In its own take on Spicer’s predicament, Fast Company noted: “Spicer, you might recall, had a way of saying up was down and blue was red during his tension-filled press briefings, and has since said he regrets berating reporters in January over the size of Trump’s inauguration crowds.”
Clearly Spicer has significant work to do to re-enter the media’s favour, purely because of his previous brief’s legacy. How can senior figures who have served amid controversial circumstances – but who may yet have valuable skills to offer – rehabilitate and refresh themselves for new challenges?
The Institute of Leadership & Management's CEO Phil James says: “Building – or, in Sean Spicer’s case, rebuilding – trust among the people you work with, or who work in your industry, is a fragile, high-maintenance process, and it takes a while to bed that trust in. There may well be skills and qualities that Spicer has that people would welcome and value. But you also want to be able to trust him as a colleague – and while he will be on a significant charm offensive at this time to reposition himself as a trustworthy talent, the effects of that won’t take hold overnight.”
He adds: “In the longer term, detoxifying is all about behaving with integrity. And that involves such things as doing exactly what you say you’re going to do, supporting colleagues, not taking undue credit for successes and giving credit generously elsewhere. Building trust is about proving that you are a ‘we’ person, rather than an ‘I’ person – and that you are capable of thinking and working in a collaborative way.”
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Image of Sean Spicer courtesy of Michael Candelori, via Shutterstock