Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It’s about the people, stupid.

“Why should I shake their hands, LeBron doesn’t,” said Patrick’s nine year-old son.

I know it drives some of you nuts when I bring sports analogies into the discussion of leadership, but I strongly believe role modeling and the resulting imitation is a big part of being a leader.

The Orlando Magic was victorious over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron “the King” James was surprisingly upset by Orlando because they acted and played as a team. Although I was publicly hoping for a Cleveland-LA match-up in the finals, such is basketball.

At the series conclusion, LeBron James walked off the court, did not congratulate the other team and skipped the post game news conference. James said, “It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.” Whether or not Mr. James understands this at age 24, he was thrust in a position of power and many people (young and old) look up to him. Even though it was brief, LeBron forgot the basics and went into a “me” world forgetting that it is not about him, it is about the people. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports explained it well.

It is in the worst of times when great leaders are tested for to see if their true values come through. Some bend the rules or avoid the tough decisions. Others stand up and do the right thing.

Have you observed a strong leader do the right thing in a tough situation? Did it result in more respect for the leader?


Jason Price said...

Well said! It never ceases to amaze me that young and old celebrities take the riches associated with wealth and then act out in the press. Or worse yet they spread their uneducated political views without pondering the result. "With great power comes great responsibility."

Anitra Farmer said...

I agree. I also noticed the same thing from the Patriots coach when they lost to the NY Giants. It speaks volumes to someone's character. It's all about how you act in the face of adversity. We should learn from those we place in positions of power. They don't always set the greatest examples for us.

Mike Krachmer said...

I am not a father, but I have attended a Boy Scout father and son canoe trip on a few occasions. This is a challenging trip with two nights at camp sites without facilities and 35 miles of river. In this setting when adults and young people are under physical, emotional and social stress; there are inumerable opportunities to be selfish. I have been regularly impressed by the leaders, adults and many of the boys to maintain a team focus.

Troop 82 is brimming with role models of all ages. I can only hope that other kids are getting the opportunity to learn from role models closer to home. I am blessed to see the joy that comes from connection and interdependence regularly. It is clear to me that sadness, frustration and anger are much more common when people are focused on themselves and thier circumstances. Joy, fun and accomplishment are more commonly shared experinces.

We are social beings. We suffer when we forget or ignore our common humanity.

Anonymous said...

Speaking for me personnaly: The FAA audited my site and found numerous findings. I called a stand-down and told every employee on site that we would not ship questionable product. The delays impacted delivery performance for about 4 months but enough for my new VP to conclude that I the delivery impact must have been because I was a poor leader. So I am now on the outside looking for work after 30 years. But I wouldn't do it any differently given the chance.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with you, John. I watched how LeBron James acted like a spoiled kid in that scene and thought to myself: Just because he had talent for basketball does not give him grace and manners. He will not go far in this life, at least not great.

In my mind, great players are the ones that take time to mentor the young ones and less fortunate like Tiger Woods. He spent a fortune put on yearly tournaments to benefit kids. Ordinary folks like me can follow along and watch world class players in a beautiful country club setting play golf.

Great leaders remember their humble beginnings and help others along. It's about attitude! Lamar Odam and Trevor Ariza have it. Shannon Brown has it. Magic has loads of it.
LeBron, unfortunately, will only go so far!

Robert Bragaw said...

Sadly, I have too often seen leaders follow the LeBron James route when faced with adversity. Inevitably, taking the low road ends up coming back to bite them in the end (no pun intended).

Bob Beck said...

It is a basic common courtesy to shake ones hand. If you don't do the basics, why would or should I expect that person to do what is truly needed in other person to person matters?

This is a sign of arrogance. I have no patience for doing business with a person like that.

Sherryl said...

Thank you, John. I LOVED the piece about LeBron's failure to stand up and do the right thing.

I appreciate your insight.


Fred Szibdat said...

Well John,

I've seen quite a few. My Dad was always my baseball coach as a kid. One year we had a great team on paper, but.... we never played to our potential until the last game of the season. WHen our playoff future was clear. We weren't going. And during a game that was out of hand (12-1) in our favor, I asked my Dad if I could lay down a suicide squeeze, as all year he asked if I could do it, Being the number 5 hitter. My Dad was against it as not to rub it in. But he also called time out. Walked over to the opposing coach, where he explained what was going to happen. We were not rubbing it in, but we wanted to see if we could executed the play. The Opposing coach, did not warn his players. And we went on to play. I layed down a great bunt by the way.

I think though, your point really hints about integrity. When a boss realizes, that the trust and respect he or she has with their staffs is more important than the miserly amount of personal gain, or in your example ego, that is being addressed. The staff see it, and they respect them further.

David Breslow said...

Hi John,

For the record, I have no problem with sports analogies. In fact, I find the business world can learn quite a lot from other "worlds" such as sports, acting and so many others. Truth is; performance is performance and what propels a corporate person is no different than what propels an athlete, actor or musician with the goal being...release your best and raise the level of your game.

In light of your question...I have always found the tradition at the end of every Stanley Cup round (hockey) when the teams line up and shake each others hands after beating the you know what out of each other for 4,5,6 or 7 games to be the ultimate demonstration of sportsmanship and respect for something larger than their in the moment feelings...they respect the game.

I'm a LeBron James fan but was not a fan of his leaving the court. His rationalization (excuse) didn't help at all. His claim that, "I'm a winner" didn't hit the mark for me. Is this what a winner does? It was the action of a whiner...not a winner. Most players are frustrated/angry after a lost series but most don't run and hide. I love the actor but not the act.

William F (Bill) Kane said...

Im not a sports fan but Dennis Rodmans behavior on Trumps show makes me wonder why so many look up to many sports, news, and movie stars. To be dumbsized by the Bachelor, Bachlorette, and Bikini girl

I never met him but I read the HBS case on John Clendenin, now there was a leader.
Turns out that after a simple search he has a linkedin profile

In addition Iast night I read about the student leaders during the Tiananmen democracy movement. Escaped China and freed after imprisonemt they have gone on to school at Harvard and Princeton, become exceptional people who still beleive in what they did, hope for change in the future, and prepared to share what they have learned about International relations and Capitalism when conditions allow them to return.

Personally I reflect on two teachers who shaped and redirected my life to date, Brother John J Lucier at the University of Dayton, and Alice Miller at Stanford.

Ralph Salier-Hellendag said...

Having been in business for many years and as a Business Anthropologist, I have encountered many people that will not shake your hand. For some it is a fear of germs, for others a deeply held religious or cultural requirement. I'm not much of a sports fan but it would seem to me that just out of sportsmanship he should have taken his place in the congratulatory line and if a hand shake was not in the offing then at least a high 5. But who knows perhaps he has some deeply held belief that by shaking someone's hand he might transfer some of his MOJO to the other person and he is simply not mature enough to know that this would not happen.

Michael Beason said...

Everyone would like to make a difference in the lives of others. We're all universally motivated by the idea that we might make a difference in the life of a child because we realize there are so many more years for them to enjoy a life worth living.

But life is what happens while you're getting ready. In our everyday struggles to gain the leverage and stature to really make a difference, we can miss the fact that who we are makes a difference at every moment.

To do is to be.
Lao Tzu

Everyone thinks about leaders as being very smart - they're smart enough to shut up.
Everyone thinks about leaders as very wise - wise enough to know they know nothing.
Everyone thinks about leaders as having a vision - mostly they just have faith in people.
Everyone thinks about leaders as having some special skills - their skill is to give up things.

Rand MacIvor said...

Hi John,

It's been a long time putting this post together and I hope I'm not splitting hairs or going off topic here. Tell me if I am. I can take it :)

But isn't there a big difference between a "star", a "role model" and a "leader"?

Stars are put in the limelight (and rightly so for the most part) because they excel at a certain skill: acting, pitching, singing, playing a mean fiddle, scoring goals, etc... all for one reason, to create allure, to enhance the hype and to MAKE the industry in which they work (and themselves) MONEY.

I do agree that, by virtue of their natures, that some stars try to do the right thing and kids will look up to them as someone that has a skill they'd like to develop. And they're nice people. But is that a role model - or is that someone kids would love to be able to match skill levels with? To be as nice as? To make that kind of money when they grow up... to be famous...?

Not to say I don't admire a star's skills and I'd like to have dinner or share a conversation with a few, but to put them in a position of having any power over me? Or my loved ones?

To me a role model is something different but is a term that has been sold to us by industry for the sake of industry. True role models are admired and trusted educators, mentors, parents, older brothers, community leaders, friends who we know we can turn to as we grow up to help us figure things out, the brave ones of the world around us who quietly make a positive difference to us. Directly. They touch our lives. Make us better people.

Leaders more often are not even in the same universe as stars - they make things happen, direct, focus others, enhance, urge, rally, support and... lead.
Leaders are those who make a positive, constructive, lasting and valuable contribution to society and the world around them. They don't care about the limelight. They're just there to do a job.

Am I way off base here? Anyone?

Prabhu Sankaran said...

I have heard about Mahatma Gandhi leaning in favor of nominating Mohammad Ali Jinnah as the 1st Prime Minister of India, right after the independence of the sub-continent from Britian in 1947. Many people believe he did that to promote Hindu-Muslim harmony and avoid the partition of the sub-continent into a Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan. I personally feel that he did the right thing in trying to appease the minority and taking a step in a perhaps right direction to win their trust, but many educated Indians do not look at it that way and they think Gandhi simply was caving in to pressure for a lofty ideal that isn't worth it. I think Gandhi tried to do the right thing to promote peace in a tough volatile situation, his respect (as a secular leader) among the people went up, but he also paid dearly with his life to an assassin's bullet and Gandhi's vision of a unified India didn't materialize. My point is, leaders always pay a price - regardless of whether they do the right or not so right thing -- because even though the right thing is right for a lot of right thinking people -- it could be wrong for a powerful few. Leaders also need to have the emotional stability to gracefully concede if doing the right thing doesn't produce the desired effect.

Debbie Holton said...

I recently heard the phrase "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." In leadership of a team, a group, or a company, getting the people side right is essential. The greatest ideas and strategies will never advance without the buy in and contributions of the team. This is the human side of lean...

Gary Klow said...

I have heard of a fair number and witnessed a few instances where leaders do the right thing. I'm glad you used that term "leader" because just being in senior management does not make one a leader.

One of the major ones that stick in my mind was the Johnson & Johnson response to the Tylenol scare. It would have been easier to have surrounded the wagons, made a non-statement pronouncement and do a CYA action. BUT, the company took immediate action and communicated what next steps they would be taking. Then they followed through even though the situation was serious and could have had a severe impact on ongoing sales. It did not and management's reputation for honesty and forthrightness was cemented in the public's mind.

Scott Griffin said...

Regardless - it is NOT "all about the people" - it IS "all about the having the RIGHT people" on board! Leaders or coaches - it doesn't matter as much as you think. HOW you lead - HOW you coach matters as well as what the RIGHT people have that burns inside themselves to do the very best that they can.

John Erste said...

To be an effective leader, leading by example is important. However, it is not singularly the key to being a good leader. You also need to have respect towards those you lead and maintain open and honest communications with them. Once you have earned their respect, you will have a team that is set up to over-achieve and go the extra mile to get the job done.

Sean Graham said...

A great book to read that highlights this specific topic is called "Profiles in Courage", by President John F. Kennedy. In it, the author cites several examples of political figures who, when faced with doing the wrong thing that would keep them in the good graces of their constituents, did the right thing instead. A super book to read in light of the actions of many members of our esteemed Congress in recent years

William F (Bill) Kane said...

Scott one can have the right people as long as you do not tie their hands up and prevent them from doing what you asked them to do. All to common in IBM

Rand I also agree with you, what motivates folks is quite diiferent, and in my experience it was more about my accomplishments, challenge, and opportunity that drove me to succeed,never was it the money, It was in exceeding the objective

Lee W. Robbins said...

No it is not "The People". It took Michael six years to learn it is not about the raw talent. IMHO it takes 'focused group will' to become champions. This includes off court assets, like coaches, scouts, trainers, and property handlers.
So far, in this NBA championship season, the big showdown is between Jackson and VanGundy.

martin hogan said...

Hi John, you are perfectly right. Look at world leaders that throw insults and those that talk, which get the best results? The worst case was of course 1919, when the Allies decided to make the losers pay.

In politics, Japanese politicians still admit responsibility and resign when something goes wrong, which seems to help diffuse the situation. Leaders by definition must take responsibility and show respect for all those around them and that means doing things that the other person wants you to do, not just what you want to do.

Even the basic management and relationship books explain the importance of behaving respectfully, or, as they say, 'when in Rome'; buy maybe avoid the throwing your guest to the lions.


David Vernon said...

Mr James is not a role model for he workplace. You can get away with anti-social behavior for a while if you are the star of a sports team or the star of a rock band. Most of us work with, not against or despite, coworkers. Most of us do not work in an "us and them" game that is anything like basketball. You never know who you will need as an ally in the future, so you never know whom you can get away with treating badly, so you have to treat everyone well. Someday LeBron James will be a "has-been", and not shaking hands will not work for him anymore either.

Wim Stout said...

Well its not that black and white Bob. In some cultures, shaking hands is an offense. These people show respect and greet eachother in a different way. It's true however when two people come from the same culture and shaking hands is the normal thing to do.

It's about pressure as well and how to deal with it. When you hear how great you are and suddenly get a disappointing result, it makes your world shake on its foundations. Values are not the same as they used to be. The world changes. Young kids are spoiled, both parrents work, the nanny does not really speak the language very well (usually coming from abroad and for that cheap). Kids are overwhelmed with toys that they cannot choose what to play with and as a result they claim to be bored. Not very easy for parents to understand because we want the best for them, better our own childhood (no offense mom and dad, but you raised me with the same intentions).

These are foundations where children do not develop the same values as their parents would like them to have. When they are quickly successful as an actor, an athleet or playing in a band, the overwhelming influence of people who want to make a quick buck out of them and give them anything they want how rediculous the question is, brings the kids in a difficult position for which they are too young to deal with.

Handling disapointments like LeBron's is tougher than it looks. Their world is much more different from ours. The question is, do they get support how to handle these difficulties because as an professional athleet, having success so young and play at the top for a while, it's hard to believe that you can't do your magic anymore. It's about attitude and dealing with situations. Nobody has the time to do the parenting we enjoyed, we have our own problems to keep our family happy and stay in the job that we have. You have to accept, the future world changes and the kids who are the future change with it.

Don't get me wrong, I am raised with the same values as you are and I try to teach them to my kids, but I have to admit that they are of a different era. If we want to play ball, we have to be able to step into someone elses shoes (even those of your own kids or LeBron's). Especially in dealing with such behaviour. If you don't understand and talk the same language how do you think you can teach values or understand why they do it.

But I do have issues with that behaviour as well....

Jack Stewart said...

Team of Rivals is another superior book on the topic of doing the right thing in the public light. Written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, it gets into minute detail of the various roads leading up to Lincoln's presidency and how he forged a team of former competitors to rule the nation in very dark days.

Michael Shevlin said...

Yes, I agree with David, Sports are a water cooler discussion, period.

Using Ones Tact and Diplomacy Is A Special Business Gift We must Use Daily. From the Board Room To The Shop Floor, It Is All About Ones People Skills To Truly Manage

Jeff Estep said...

I was actually pulling for a Denver - Orlando match up.
With that said, I was extremely disappointed in how LeBron handled that situation mainly because (up to that point) he had been a great example of how to do the right thing in an incredible situation. As you stated, he is 24 and has the world in the palm of his hands. I don't think any of us can come close to imagining how we would handle the incredible amount of pressure or how we could handle having the world watching our every move.... on and off the court. Not to mention he started at age 18 without the benefit of college "life lessons". Again, I think he has (up to this point) handled this situation great.
There in lies my dissappointment. I coach highschool basketball when I'm not working and I see how these kids look up to guys like LeBron. I thought (and still think) LeBron is one of the good guys. He just made a mistake. If every time I made a mistake when I was 18 or 24 or 44.... it found its way onto Sports Center or the evening news.... let's just say I would have been on the news a lot....
LeBron has a decision to make now...
1) admit that he let the pressure of the moment affect his immediate reaction and admit that he disrespected the Orlando Magic and his own team by his actions... and move on.
2) Stick to his story that his actions are somehow justified... and fight it for years to come.
Translated to our business world.... The people we manage want a leader that is Strong but yet compassionate... a leader that leads with muscle and with heart. The ones that lead just with muscle will eventually "grow old and weak" or will eventually become injured and when they turn to see who is there to help them will find no one to help.
The leader that leads with an equal amount of strength and Heart will find that the people they led and/or worked "with" will be there for them in times of need. We all struggle with this, especially in these trying economic times but in the end smart business decisions backed with true heart felt compassion will triumph in the long run.

Curt Canada said...

LeBron is a product of his industry that's built on money ,marketing, and dominance. The team concept beat Cleveland and I fault the industry that has nothing to do with the word leadership. It's very sad that such display of character is evident in the world of spectator sports where values are not at the top of the list. Money and winning has nothing to do with character. I think there will come a day when LeBron will address his poor display of gamesmanship! Great leaders understand that at the end of the day there 's a tomorrow! I really don't know to many 24 year old (great) leaders and especially in the NBA!

Denise Soots said...

I have always believed that what is at the core of our being shines through when things gets tough and we get squeezed. There are so many people 'playing the part' instead of living honestly that when you continue to watch them in various situations, you soon discover their TRUE core. Sadly, we are often disappointed. I have several collegues I have watched sacrifice their intergrity and their core beliefs when the opposition squeezed them a little too hard; the once black and white soon turned to gray. I have been blessed enough to have those black and white role models that stayed true to their own convictions and have not been swayed over to the gray. It seems to be harder and harder in this day and age for our children to find such role models.

Jeff Williams said...


Thank you for bringing up such a great topic. LeBron aside, this is a root issue at the heart of many business/government troubles and ethics controversies. We forget that INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS MATTER!

How we are perceived by others is critical and always being on guard to do what is right is a challenge faced by leaders. Humility and sincerity are key traits for those who always seems to do the right thing. It's a part of their character and personality.

To truthfully answer your question - "Have you observed a strong leader do the right thing in a tough situation? Did it result in more respect for the leader?" - I would have to say that I've not had this opportunity. What I have had many times over is the opposite. I've experienced those in authoritative positions do the wrong thing in even simple situations and the outcome was the total destruction of their credibility, trustworthiness and respect.

In one instant, you can crush someones spirit and do much damage. How many times have we received poor service in a restaurant or other establishment upon the first visit and NEVER returned?

I believe that many take leadership roles and positions of authority FOR THEMSELVES. Like LeBron, they do so with that same "it's all about ME, my power, my position, my accomplishment" and forget that they have a responsibility to others. Sometimes it is arrogance and sometimes ignorance.

Yes Individual Actions Matter and decisions ALL have consequences. It is also important to understand that others are watching and impacted. What I've taken away from all these negative examples is how NOT to do things and I always will remember how I felt when poor leaders did badly. I hold these up as a mirror to make sure I don't repeat the same mistakes.


John Bushling said...

It may not be profound but, doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.

A leader that I respected had to make a down-sizing decision. It was a very surgical and very unpopular decision. It was also the right decision. He took a lot of criticism. After the dust settled, he was generally respected for making the tough calls. (No one wanted to be the one to make the call.) After some reorganization, cross-training and redistribution of work, the business maintained and ultimately thrived. Doing the right thing was the right thing to do.

John Bushling

Felix P. Nater said...

John, though your over all point is valid in the Lebron example, Curt implies the lack of judgement to immaturity and that applies in any industry and to anyone of his age. Unfortunately the limelight captured Lebron's bad decision and shielded all of mine at his age.

The real problem is the lack of emphasis on leadership, personal responsibility and accountability thus contributing to more serious behavior and its complications. Taking the Lebron analogy to the agregious conduct of the Madoffs of the world and those involved in the Nation's financial crisis are all indicative of the me behavior Lebron displayed.

When we speak of Leadership it is inextricably linked to personal responsibility, accountability, duty, courage and honor. We all know that
leadership is both ethical and unethical as it
relates to the means justifying the ends.

Shawn Deveau said...


I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. In business, as in sport, people are not looking for a leader who is perfect, but someone who makes consistently good decisions and admits when they make a mistake. I have the feeling that LeBron will admit his mistake eventually, and hopefully for him, it's not too late.


David Breslow said...

Hi John,

To add to my earlier comments.

I suppose i have a bit of a bias toward business utilizing the habits from the world of acting and sports as I have direct experience in both of them. However, bias i mentioned (I think) in the post...human performance is human performance and the Laws and Principles by which each of us produce outcomes...are the same regardless of age, gender, personality type or experience/skill level.

So...the laws function the same for the actor, the pilot, the CEO and the PGA Tour golfer...and this is where my "program"'s interesting because it cuts out belief and opinion and theory--which is quite interesting for folks to be part of...since so many of us are used to harboring and cherishing our beliefs and opinions.

The performance laws quickly reveal that none of our opinions are relevant to the discussion...and that the laws are functioning regardless. Makes results in their lives happen more quickly!

David Breslow

igor sevonkaev said...

This is a good question, but very philosophical: what is right for one might be nonsense for another. Screaming: "God Damn!!" on the ground would offend 10% of Americans, Not shaking somebody's hand did that to another 10%. Although I would continue the question and ask: How long such leaders last? Do they really leave a mark in the history?

Tom Rice said...

Perhaps LeBron James was too sick in his stomach and embarrassed. That man did give it his all. It was not so much about shaking the opposite team, they were all over him. Magic just unfairly overwhelmed James, even then they could not hold him back. Did some very dirty plays that should have been called. You shake the other team hand if they had good sportsmen ship. Not answering to the media is what he got punished for with a fine.

David Breslow said...

Hello Tom,

Basketball is full of fouls and non-calls and over calling as well. i think the point is...LeBron made it about LeBron and that's what is so disappointing for me. The game is bigger than he is...the game will be here long after he is gone. I'm sure a lot of other players felt they were fouled but that is no reason to walk off the court after a series ending loss without acknowledging the game...which is bigger than any single player.


Gregg Miner said...

John, leadership is all about trust and trust is earned by leaders making long series of "right decisions". By right I don't only mean business decisions, those are important, but making the right decisions for the people.

After Sept 11, I was the General Manager of an aerospace company and we had to make some cuts. I decided to deliver the message myself at each cut even to the hourly people. At the end of each meeting with 100% participation, I received a handshake and request to be rehired when the time was right. Our process was professional and sincere.

Later in 2002, we were awarded the Oklahoma Quality Award for Excellence and scored the highest grade in the Workforce Development category (80%). To this day, I am 100& convinced the success I had at that company was due to how we treated the people.

Peter Samardak said...

Leadership needs to be inspired, focuesed and visionary at the same time. I am sure you can think of people you followed because of that "aura" they possessed. It is about people. Leadership, inspired leadership is about taking people to heights they thought they could never reach. Its about heartshare and mindshare. Its about value, ethics, honesty, candor, and constructive criticism too. It is multidimensional. And, leadership is getting things done through others...a leader can't do it alone. The others...followers..have to want to be lead and have to want to follow you. That's right, you, the inspired Leader that will want to make them take that leap of faith into the future.

Denise (Brezec) Henry said...

Jeff - I could not agree with you more! Especially when you stated: "I believe that many take leadership roles and positions of authority FOR THEMSELVES. Like LeBron, they do so with that same "it's all about ME, my power, my position, my accomplishment" and forget that they have a responsibility to others. Sometimes it is arrogance and sometimes ignorance." I feel like that is all that I have seen. It is very frustrating and very demotivating.

One thing, like you, that I have learned is how NOT to lead. I remember all of the poor actions, mannerisms, decisions, etc. and use that to build my vision of a bad leader. This way I can always focus on the opposite in making myself a better leader.

Again, you always have to remember when you are a leader that you have that responsibility for others.

Great discussion...

Anthony (Tony) Noe said...

Excellant point that reminds us of Individual Resposibility and that sports figures are just people who are faced with test sfar beyond their education or years in many cases.
Individually we are responsible for our actions, decisions and choices. It is something our society has been forgetful of late.
It is a shame that being able to play a 'kids' game, even though they play it very well somehow places some of these people as role models for everyone. Charles Barkley said it well when he said 'I am not a role model'. I am sorry to say, but yes you are in the yes of the young people who watch and admire you.
Leaders of all kinds make decisions everyday, the tough decisions to do the right thing at a cost earn respect from followers and potential followers. Thinking about what is right and wrong and the potential results is a leaders responsibility each and everytime, not just when the 'camara is watching'.

Jann Deane said...

I loved your post. Of course it was the title that hooked me, but the content is right on target.

Character and integrity are tested and demonstrated in doing the right thing when no one else is looking. If you can't do the right thing when EVERYONE is looking, it's a sad commentary.

Thanks for the thought provoking post!

Patrick J. Banks said...

Excellent discussion and excellent perspectives from all contributors . . .

In a tepid defence of LeBron (and mind you, I’m a Detroit Pistons fan with tremendous appreciation for his skills, but no love for him or the Cavaliers), his reaction showed his immaturity, rather than his leadership. After all, he’s only 24 years old and has yet to learn how to gracefully handle adversity. As LeBron matures (and maturity is not necessarily a function of aging), he’ll learn (I would hope).

It’s devastating to disappoint oneself and others, as well as frustrating. It can temporarily lead to anger or withdrawal, as was the case here. Whether or not his behaviour was stimulated by an “it’s all about me” outlook on things is only speculation on our part. And, while it may be easy to conclude that his actions were selfishly motivated, only he would know. While I could never excuse or endorse his chosen response to disappointment, I can understand it. After years of so many people telling him what a wonderful athlete he is, and after all other accolades and recognitions poured on him, it’s hard to face, or worse, accept failure. Understandably, one takes it personally, the Ego freaks out, and the Pavlovian response is predictable. I’m certain that the unfavourable reactions to his behaviours will reach his ears. I would be stunned if after he reflects on his behaviour, whether he excuses it or not, he repeats it.

Maybe the sad commentary is that when corporate leaders behave like this, feedback about their conduct doesn’t always reach them. So, they don’t change and we’re stuck with sharing our collective space with them, always on the lookout for repeat performances (to hide and avoid, or confirm our conclusion that the person is an idiot).

Patrick J. Banks said...

Excellent discussion and excellent perspectives from all contributors . . .

In a tepid defence of LeBron (and mind you, I’m a Detroit Pistons fan with tremendous appreciation for his skills, but no love for him or the Cavaliers), his reaction showed his immaturity, rather than his leadership. After all, he’s only 24 years old and has yet to learn how to gracefully handle adversity. As LeBron matures (and maturity is not necessarily a function of aging), he’ll learn (I would hope).

It’s devastating to disappoint oneself and others, as well as frustrating. It can temporarily lead to anger or withdrawal, as was the case here. Whether or not his behaviour was stimulated by an “it’s all about me” outlook on things is only speculation on our part. And, while it may be easy to conclude that his actions were selfishly motivated, only he would know. While I could never excuse or endorse his chosen response to disappointment, I can understand it. After years of so many people telling him what a wonderful athlete he is, and after all other accolades and recognitions poured on him, it’s hard to face, or worse, accept failure. Understandably, one takes it personally, the Ego freaks out, and the Pavlovian response is predictable. I’m certain that the unfavourable reactions to his behaviours will reach his ears. I would be stunned if after he reflects on his behaviour, whether he excuses it or not, he repeats it.

Maybe the sad commentary is that when corporate leaders behave like this, feedback about their conduct doesn’t always reach them. So, they don’t change and we’re stuck with sharing our collective space with them, always on the lookout for repeat performances (to hide and avoid, or confirm our conclusion that the person is an idiot).

Manoj Gupta said...


Treat human beings as human and you will have the quality to be the greatest leader.


Ashutosh Agrawal said...

From my experience in aerospace projects, I have seen how good leaders act at times of both success and failures. When its success, praise the team and push them to front. In case of failure, the leader goes in front and takes the responsibility.
What makes a leader a leader? It’s the trust and respect of his followers.

Otto Thav said...

There have been several studies in "Excellence", "Best Of Breed", etc., even though they only make up the top !%. But there are very few Worst Of Breed studies, that make up the remaining 99%. Shouldn't be be trying this 99% to understand what makes leaders make wrong decisions? Then we can know how to avoid or help them.

Nathan Corliss said...

Sometimes I have seen good leaders use their integrity and common sense to make a decision that went against the wishes of senior management and cut into profit margins. It was unfortunate to see these managers be chastized by their decisions in front of other managers, a lack of integrity from others. However, it did build the credibility and trust of the customers. All government contracts know the importance of building trust with the customer and DCMA representatives.

David Breslow said...

I truly enjoy reading your insights and find your posts revealing. They remind me of the teachings of Lao Tzu...ancient Chinese Philosopher his Book titled: The Tao Te Ching (the Way of Life) wrote 81 verses on the way to live life to its fullest. One of his verses (number 17)is what I'd like to share here. This is taken from a book by Wayne Dyer titled: "Change your thoughts, change your life; Living the wisdom of the Tao". In this interpretation, verse 17 states:

"With the greatest leader above them, people barely know one exists.
Next comes one whom they love and praise.
Next comes one whom they fear,
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

When a leader trusts no one, no one trusts him

The great leader speaks little.
He never speaks carelessly.
He works without self-interest.and leaves no trace.
When all is finished, the people say, "We did it ourselves."

Personally, I love the teachings of Lao Tzu and find them just as viable now as they were 2500 years ago.

Leadership isn't about acquiring bunch of "traits" from a's about strengthening the "inside" game...the leader Lao Tzu writes about is in touch with his/her source...his place of consciousness and can therefore be rather than do. This is often a difficult notion for the "Western" mind that over thinks, over analyzes and seeks control, etc.

Paula Oleska said...

LeBron's behavior is bad manners, I guess his parents didn't teach him...

When it comes to leadership, business consultants and writers have been emphasizing teamwork, respect etc. for years. It doesn't seem to be sinking in! From my point of view, you have to change how these people's brains work to be able see the results. I can do that!

Norman Nopper said...

In my leadership/supervisory training, I advise participants that when they give direction to their people, they should say "Please" when making the request and "Thank you" for a job well done. To me it's a way of showing dignity and respect for my employee, and get's far better results than merely barking orders.

Several years ago, I had a young man (mid to late 20's) in one of my sessions. He asked me: "Why should I say please and thank you?" I just stared at him, speechless. Then I smiled, thought about the way I was when I was his age, told myself "Father forgive him, for he knows not what he says", and realized that in time, and with experience, he would finally "get it".

As for those of us who train leaders, let's just keep sending the message: always show dignity and respect to others. It costs nothing, means so much to the other person, and is a powerful way to influence people in positive directions.

Kenna Lewis said...

Sadly, I feel that there are many leaders who conduct themselves no differently than LeBron, but there is no TV to document and broadcast their mistakes. Many get caught up in a title and forget their leadership skills or don't realize the growth process it takes to be and maintain the title of "leader". Their organizations never live up to their potential and they look at blame in all areas but can not look in the mirror to find true fault.

I agree Norman, we must keep sending the message of dignity, respect and the ability to learn from everything we do each day.

John, I like the sports analogies!

Felix said...

Please and thank you have their appropriate places and therefore should not replace technical and leadership competencies. Patronization is the minimal vail that cloaks many things. Though the value if please and thank you can never be diminished, subirdinates or contemporaries do not hang their desire to follow on them. Key is to always remember that you are under the microscope and leading requires acute understanding of those you lead and what the mission is. Mereley promoting the use of please and thank you as a leadership essential undermines personal responsibility and accountability.

Those two powerful words should be used wisely but not before facial expressions, intonation and body language. The danger of over reliance devalues its meaning and context.

The arousal point for this response comes from my own experiences. I remember being challenged by a younger subordinate who once said, "people who know what the want and what they expect do not always begin every tasking with please. Though I disagreed, from that moment on I elevated my leadership to the next level and with profound positvie results. I think we need to be cautious of perception and the power of language can create.

Though thid every request or instruction suggestbto me that one might be closcking lead

Felix said...

This regard the last sentence as I am Iphone challenged.

Ricardo Stahlberg said...

I agree with the point made by Wim and Bob, but I think the overall question raised by John about being all about the people and doing the right thing is more complicated than that. Although I agree that parental education and family values are utmost important, we cannot put all the responsibility on the shoulder of the parents. Our modern society is being changing fast by globalization and we are starting to strugle to keep up. Man is instinctively a tribal animal, we tend to bond more strongly to small groups where we share things in common. Family is the first group we belong, but then cames neighbours, school mates, sports team mates and work colleagues.
But globalization is is turning everithing upside down. People do not live where they were born because the parents had to move due to theis jobs, and they will do the same as well, perhaps many times, maybe even abroad (like their nanny was forced to do).
Following John's example I can bring also sports analogy: in the past players were not that well paid and they played for love and loyalty to the team and their mates. But nowadays they play to anyone that pays more, even if they have to move to their biggest rival. The same happens in the workplace, there is no loyalty to the team, each one does what suits them better at the moment, and that can change in the next moment. Tribes have been smashed, WE are not important anymore, all what matters is ME.
But how can we blame individuals, when corporations act in the same way. It doesn't matter how loyal you have been over the many years at the company, if the situation changes you are out.
When that happens, we are playing agains our nature and this is making everyone get confused. Would that help to explain so many divorces, so many children being raised by single parents, so little family values?
When kids are not given correct orientation to join "healthy" tribes, they will find their own way to find a tribe to join in, most are called "gangs". It is not their fault, they are only following our human nature.
But don't get me wrong, I'm not against globalization. I believe cooperation between Nations and companies is still the best way to achieve a balanced development and avoid wars. But above all it is all bout people. Companies priority should be to give people jobs and second to pay shareholders, not the other way round.
Answering John's question: how many time have I seen a leader do the right thing? Well, it depends of the point of view. I have seen a leader do the right thing For his people, but he lost his position, because this was not what the shareholders expected from him.
I believe the current global crisis is been partly caused by too much corporate greed and too little care for people. But crisis have a good side: they force changes.
Let us hope the best for the future generations.

Uday Deshpande said...

In the example cited, it's basic sportsmanship that is missing. Like Ricardo said, they play less for the love of the game and more because they have sold their skills and services to the highest bidder who expects to make money from their actions.
I read about a plant owner who kept all the staff (about 200) on after the plant had burned down until the plant was rebuilt and the work could resume. This was a few years back in the Northeast part of the country. I believe it was a family owned clothing manufacturing company.
In terms of basic courtesies - I keep going back to the book "Everything I needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten" - it always holds true at the fundamental level.
One other thought on LeBron's behavior -
Men are like steel, when they lose their temper, they lose their worth (Chuck Norris).

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