The Fyre Festival was a musical event organized by Billy McFarland and set to take place in the spring of 2017. The organizers canceled it after the attendants had arrived due to critical failures in areas such as food and shelter. Those involved in promoting or organizing the festival faced brand damage at best or lawsuits at worst, while McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison (Vargas, 2019). This fiasco was the result of the organizers’ unethical approach to business that undermined their decision-making process.
The Fyre Festival’s failure was practically unavoidable due to the irresponsible and dishonest conduct of its organizers. Despite their protestations, the project is now widely regarded as a scam (Vargas, 2019). An ethical approach to event planning requires transparency, honesty, diligence, and accountability. The organizers have neglected their obligations before investors and participants, focusing instead on courting publicity. Despite numerous indications that the necessary preparations for the events were not coming along as planned, they failed to address those failures or to disclose them to their stakeholders. When the festival was canceled, they continued to deny all responsibility (Vargas, 2019). For the project to succeed, the ethics behind it needed to be different.
If the Fyre Festival team had been devoted to fulfilling their obligations, they would have been better able to resolve or mitigate their difficulties. Adapting the authentic leadership philosophy would have forced McFarland to be honest with his partners and clients about the state of the preparations. Disclosure may have forced him to adjust plans, possibly delaying the event. While such a delay would have incurred reputational and financial costs, the actual costs were worse. Authentic leadership would also have necessitated planning to deliver on one’s promises. Quantitative decision-making tools, like decision trees and pay-off matrices, would have helped preparations by letting the team account for different possible scenarios. As a result, they would have had backup plans to address logistical problems like the ones that emerged on the start date.
The Fyre Festival fiasco was made inevitable by the lax ethics of its organizers, who prioritized promoting the event over fulfilling their responsibilities to stakeholders. While organizing a major event is challenging, a consistently more ethical approach informed by authentic leadership philosophy would have ensured a better outcome. It may have required more time and effort, but preparations assisted by quantitative decision-making tools could have prevented a business disaster.
Vargas, A. (2019). Keep track of the Fyre Fest disaster with this detailed timeline. Refinery29.