Monday, January 23, 2012

Leadership...Where Has it Gone?





Over the last few months I have been so surprised by recent lapses in judgement and leadership. I have to ask, why is this so rampant? Where has all of our character gone?

My first disappointment as of late was the whole Penn State, Joe Paterno scandal. I mean how does someone know about an incident of child abuse and NOT report it to the law. I don't care what loophole existed for working in a University. You have to put your morals and ethics first especially when it involves children. Joe Paterno died a few days ago, his legacy forever tarnished.

When does a Captain of a large cruise ship get off the boat before his passengers? And then try to convince the world that he (and his second in command) "tripped into the life boat?" How does this happen? Wasn't there training, scenario planning, procedures, and policies in place to draw from, when an accident of this magnitude happens?

How does an entire school system cover up a huge cheating scandal all in the name of bigger bonuses for higher performing schools? Teachers changed standardized test scores in order to have high scores that lead to better bonuses and recognition from the school system. This wasn't just one school or one teacher it was hundreds. The victims in this situation were the Atlanta school children.

In the examples above what strikes me as strange is that it wasn't just one person that had a lapse in judgement but multiple people in the situation did the same thing. How does one person's bad judgement rub off on those around him?

I believe the old adage is true, "a person's character comes out when there is a crisis situation." So, that begs the question for me:

Do leaders have character but it just for some reason lapses in a crisis or did the leaders lack character all along?

So, what is the answer? Is it parenting, education, training or religious beliefs? I don't have any research that states that the lack of character is a generational issue. I have heard anecdotally, that some older people feel character is lacking in our younger generation, but in the examples above they were all baby boomers or older.

I ask myself, what can I do. I guess the best we can do is be an example of what a leader should do no matter your role. You can be a leader in the classroom. You can be a leader as a janitor. Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

In this election year, we will hear about candidate's character and examples of their leadership. I encourage you to do your own research and figure out how the candidates have acted in a crisis. Look for their true colors when the going gets tough. I want a President that can call on his values, in a crisis, act like a leader and motivate others to do the same.

All of this made me think of Leadership Development in the corporate environment. I think this training should be scenario based with several simulations of crisis situations. I think in most organizations the environment is basically the same day in and day out. Leadership is most needed in extreme circumstances...how do we train to that?

I wonder how different the "big recession" would have been if we had strong ethical leaders in the banking and real-estate industry?
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