Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

We're all selling ourselves these days.

We clutch our phones, post photos of our glamorous lives on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. In that order.

We are, after all, all brands, right?

Of course, there may be a severe editing of the truth, but the art of the sell is about emotions not facts.

The reverse side of all this comes when others present us on social media. 

Who could fail to chuckle, then, when a humane side of  American Airlines CEO Doug Parker emerged on Instagram?

No, it wasn't because Parker wanted to show off his latest business suit -- one that doesn't itch at all.

Instead, he posed for one of his airline's Flight Attendants, Maddie Peters, after she did the sort of thing Flight Attendants never, ever want to do.

She explained

I was serving drinks during boarding to the first class cabin. I had a full tray with drinks on it, when the passenger in front of me stops in the aisle and backs up. He bumps into the tray and the drinks go flying. Guys I have worked for American Airlines for 4 years, and not once have I ever spilt a drink on a passenger. Guess who they land on. Half of them went all over me, the other half in Doug's lap. I WAS MORTIFIED. I wanted to drop dead right there in the aisle. (Like am I still employed?!)

I can imagine one or two senior executives might have got their underwear in a twist and uttered words they shouldn't.

I seem to remember one at Korean Air did a little worse than that.

Instead, Parker understood and cheerily posed for selfie with Peters.

Parker's not often been known as someone with the touchy-feely talent.

Especially the feely part.

For a long time, he couldn't even understand why he should bother flying the airliner's newest and most uncomfortable plane -- the ill-fated Boeing 737 MAX.

Yet here he is, appearing for all the world like an understanding sort.

I wonder if some of the unions still negotiating with him might like to use this moment to take advantage.

His counterpart at JetBlue, Robin Hayes, was also seemingly caught unawares. This time by a passenger.

Investment manager Joe Chase happened to be on a JetBlue flight, when he espied Hayes sitting in Economy Class and doing a few other things too.

CEO Robin Hayes got on the mic on my flight today to give away a couple tickets to random passengers by playing 'seat bingo'. When returning to his seat (flying economy) he walked down the aisle of the plane collecting trash from passengers. No job is below the CEO!

You'd think every business leader would look at this and see humility, decency and even intelligent leadership.

You'd also think the perfect meal was dental floss and gruel.

On LinkedIn, several business leaders seemed quite appalled by Hayes's display.

Sample from Angik Sarkar, CEO of Waylo Price Prediction: 

Unless this was a publicity stunt, this was a pretty bad use of a CEO's time. A CEO is paid to make sure the company hits financial goals. Picking up trash when there are others for the job, is a bad use of his time.

As other LinkedIners pointed out how the media had picked up this story, Sarkar then clarified his thoughts: 

A company is like a living body. Every job/function is equally important. But, each of them have different deliverables. In my opinion, any work hours, not spent towards hitting those deliverables is a bad use of time. However, as some of you pointed out, I missed that Robin's gesture dominated news cycles, raised NPS and employee morale, which are part of an airline CEO's deliverables. 

The tech industry. Dear Lord. There are (many) days when it seems like a good thing to shut the whole thing down.

Yet Sarkar wasn't alone in his sniffing.

Mee Warren, SVP at Two Sigma Investments opined: 

I don't understand this post. Why should this impress me?

I'll pass on that question and go to D K Sabharwal, CEO of Abacus Management Consultants: 

I think he just got carried away a bit -- if not lot! [sic] Why he picked this trash cleaning job - and broadcasted it -- is an awful brownie! I mean he did this because he could stomp on the crew's job territory! Likewise can a trash cleaner in the airline ever dream of stomping in the board and flying decisions as a CEO? I mean can ever someone stomp above his level similarly into a role and send a similar message? If no -- then this act is not fair!!

There was more. Sam Hardwick, director at Progressive Learning Ltd offered: 

I'm sure the CEO does this every time he flies such a genuine and real thing to do - I think not!

So you see, even when you're being a good, decent, human leader, not everyone will be impressed.

Which is a pity, but there you go.

I must end, though, on a more understanding note. This, from Maxim Zakhartchenko, strategic sourcing manager at Wyndham Destinations:  

This is real leadership driven by example! You can clearly see how this forms a positive and productive environment in the corporation. 

Quite. 

Published on: Apr 14, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.