I am saddened by the recent events in State College, PA. The alleged abuse of boys sickens me to no end. I know abuse. I was repeatedly abused sexually by a male babysitter as a child. I understand the hurt, the damage, the shame. All of it makes me ill. There are many things I could write about today. I could write about the stigma attached to sexual abuse and how it is so severely under reported. I could talk about the stained legacy of Joe Paterno and Penn State University. I could talk about the NCAA and how much of its Division 1 football programs are much more professional than amateur. This is really not the place for those thoughts and ideas. You can find a billion posts, articles, news segments and round table discussions outlining people’s opinions on such matters. I have other things to write about.
Since this is primarily a blog about leadership and as I have written a book about the topic, I will try to stick close to theme but use the mess at Penn State in an illustrative way. The events at State College were a failure in leadership, a colossal failure, at that. There is really no other way to put it. Former Defensive Coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with numerous crimes as outlined by the grand jury report. He has not been convicted of anything as of yet. The criminal justice system has not run its course. My experience though in these types of cases with multiple victims tells me that where there is smoke there is fire and where there is smoke from multiple sources there are many fires. No matter what really happened in the showers at the football complex at PSU I can say that the president of the University, its athletic director, and its legendary head football coach have been sacked. Significant leadership at the university bee-lining from the football program to its highest level has been ousted. This is a failure in leadership at its core.
Leading is ultimately about accountability. It is about accountability to the organization’s values, its goals, its objectives. The leaders are the ones who help define success based on its values, goals, and objectives. They steer the ship, turn the rudder, set the sails. Nothing could have been worse for the University than to go in the direction it has gone. Those leaders, through their gross mismanagement of this horrific situation, have brought this about. At some point they exchanged wise decisions to play the part of the fools for whatever reasons. Whether it be benign ignorance, wicked incompetence, fear, or blind allegiance, foolishness won the day. I don’t know what those men did or didn’t do, what they knew or didn’t know. I just know that they lost their jobs and at the heart of this matter lay the futures of shamed, young men who just wanted to go to football camp.
They say that it is “lonely at the top.” One of the main problems with being at the summit is that the higher one goes the fewer are those who have the liberty to speak into their lives. Leaders tend to be isolated out of fear, respect, and admiration. Those who need a second or third voice in their lives the most are least likely to get them and those below them will suffer. So, what is the point?
Do you allow others to speak into your life honestly? Or do you isolate yourself and run your important decisions only by yourself? Do you allow trusted peers and respected people below you to give input? Are you one uncovered lie or loose-lipped associate away from organizational implosion?