Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | September 23, 2014

N(eed). F(or). L(eadership)!

leadershipIt takes just a few to screw up the reputation of any organization. No I am not talking about the few that do incredibly stupid things because we will always have these regardless of the situation. But about those few at the top, those so called leaders, who lose sight of what it means to lead.

The last few weeks I have been watching with despair as the game I love, American Football, being hit by the few stupid committing incredibly mean and vile acts. As appalling as these incidents were, what made me even more mad was the response and the actions of the leaders (and I cringe even to use that word on them!) and their sad self-preserving justifications for not making the right decisions.

My thoughts, naturally, turned to what can I learn from these pseudo-leaders. And sometimes some of the best leadership lessons, unfortunately, comes from these high profile failures of leaders. None of these will come as a surprise, they are all cliché’s! But it amazes me time and again how much these have become just talking points instead of living, breathing, practicing core of leadership.

  • Value system: When money becomes the core of your values, you lose the ability to do the right thing. When you care more about how much one makes for you, you tend to overlook the egregious violent acts committed by those who fulfill what has become your core value.
  • Abdication of responsibility: Just because the right decision is hard, don’t punt your responsibility to someone else. The clubs punting to the league to make a decision and pointing that they are the deciding authority, is a sorry despicable excuse. Yes the league had a responsibility as well, but these idiots worked for the club and the club leadership didn’t need the league to tell them these were terrible acts.
  • Timeliness of action: The consequences for actions and meting out the justifiable punishment should be timely. No one needed to watch the video of a man knocking a woman unconscious to know how violent an act that is and just the fact that it happened should have been enough to take the right action the first time.
  • Repeating the mistakes: Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes even mistakes that most can’t understand how a smart responsible person can commit. And most times those are the learning blocks through which all of us have built ourselves up on. On the other hand, repeatedly making the same mistakes shows that these particular leaders thought they were above the commonly accepted principles of decency and responsibility.
  • Importance of support system: Even the best leaders need the gentle nudge of their support system of mentors and others to hold them accountable. Clearly the pressure of the public and especially the sponsors is what made the league and the club eventually take the right actions.
  • Stop the Spin: When a mistake is made, don’t make it worse by continuing to dig that hole! Trying to explain away the bad decisions makes it only worse. It always makes me wonder why one thinks that a long drawn out defensive explanation is going to set the record straight, instead of just admitting the mistake made. Own it! Learn it! And don’t repeat it!

Being a leader, of a family, community or an organization, is an omnipresent responsibility. It is not for everyone and it is definitely not for those who don’t understand the importance of making the tough decision or for those who don’t learn quickly from their mistakes.

I am re-committing today (and hope all you leaders do as well), to be never swayed away from my core values or abdicate my responsibility to take timely action when presented with a difficult situation. I re-commit to not explain away my mistakes, but to learn from them and continue to depend on the awesome support system I have.

Own it! Learn it! And don’t repeat it!!


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