Tag Archives: hubris

A Lion in Winter: Lessons From the Penn State Scandal

Lion in Winter: Penn State Nittany Lions' head coach, Joe Paterno, watches his legendary 45-year career come to an ignominious end, engulfed in a sordid sex scandal where it is alleged he didn't do everything he could do to protect young victims from a long-time assistant who turned out to be a serial sexual predator

Hubris (noun)
1.  Pride or arrogance
2.  (in Greek tragedy) an excess of ambition, pride, etc., ultimately causing the transgressor’s ruin

We don’t know all the facts yet about the evolving scandal at Penn State.  What does seem clear, though, is that we’re witnessing a humiliating end to the career of a legendary figure in college sports – a man who, until this very week, has been regarded as the epitome of uprightness and integrity throughout a 45-year run as a leader and icon for his sport.

While on the surface this is a “sports story,” in reality, it isn’t.  It’s a story about an organization, a leader, and an executive team that clearly lost their way when it came to “the most important things.”  The question for today is, how can other organizations – and ourselves – avoid such a fate?

Quick Summary

For those not familiar with the details, a long-time assistant coach at Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, was indicted on 40 counts of endangering the welfare of a child (and similar crimes).  While he is not officially implicated in the case, Penn State’s football coach, Joe Paterno, had allegations involving Sandusky reported to him on at least two occasions.  Paterno – the winningest coach in Division I college football history — complied with his legal obligations by reporting the claim to his supervisor (the Athletic Director).  It appears, though, that he did absolutely nothing more than was legally required and did not pursue or otherwise inquire about the matter in any way.  Penn State’s Athletic Director and Finance VP have also been indicted and resigned from the university.  It is expected that Paterno will resign with days or weeks at the latest.

Details regarding the grand jury’s report are available here.  (Warning: graphic details, including child rape).

Heartbreak

There is heartbreak in every area and on every level in this story … Continue reading

CEO’s: No Longer Accountable?

More than 40 years ago, Simon and Garfunkle sang their famous lament, “Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?”  Judging by recent news reports, maybe today’s question should be, “Where have you gone, Harry Truman?”  Truman’s “the buck stops here” perspective on executive accountability seems to be sadly missing from the current age.

Did He Really Just Say That?

Truman-style "buck stops here" accountability isn't evident in recent CEO testimony. (image via Wikipedia)

For the past few weeks, the”phone hacking” scandal centering around News Corporation executives has been plastered across front pages around the world.  I have to admit that I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the details until News Corp‘s CEO, Rupert Murdoch appeared before parliament in London the other day.  Acknowledging that he was “shocked, appalled, and ashamed” by the tumult engulfing his global media empire and which casts a pall over Scotland Yard, among other institutions, a chastened Murdoch said, “This is the most humble day of my life.”

Fair enough.  If he had stopped there, it would have been Continue reading

Antidote to Leader Misbehavior

During the past several weeks, we have seen more than our fair share of  leaders behaving badly (see Messrs. Schwarzenneger, Weiner, et al). While saddening,  we’ve all experienced enough in our lives to make it all anything but shocking, I’m afraid.  (Several years back, I had the unfortunate experience of working in an organization whose truly brilliant and visionary but equally undisciplined division leader was not only openly conducting an extramarital affair with an employee, but was also eagerly advising other executives how to do so).

How different is the true gentleman or woman from the poor leadership behavior on recent display

Many a gallon of ink (or, the electronic equivalent) has been spilled in recent weeks pondering the meaning and impact of such leader misbehavior.  While I suspect that most of the bad behavior is the result of ego, power, greed, hubris — or some combination thereof — I’d like to go in a different direction today, if I might.  I’d like to reflect in this space on the impact of honorable behavior by the “quiet leaders” in our lives — the men and women who get up each morning trying to do the right thing, set the right example, and help us see right from wrong, often without saying a word.

Real Leaders and True Gentlemen (and women)

As a baseball fan, I enjoy collecting anecdotes, memorabilia, stories, and perspectives on the game.  My favorite baseball quote, however, actually has nothing at all to do with baseball, per se.  David Cone, an outstanding pitcher and World Series winner with several teams in the ’90’s, was once asked Continue reading

Managing By Cliches, Part 3: Moderation In All Things

Detail of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sa...

"Moderation in all things" has been urged by philosophers since the time of Aristotle

This is the third in our series of posts around the idea of “managing by cliches.”

Recently, I’ve become more and more aware of a paradox of management behavior: a leader’s greatest strength is often their greatest weakness.  (I’m not sure if this is actually a “cliche” — but I’ve said or thought it enough that it has become one in my mind, at least!).  That is, when an outstanding skill or technique is over-used, or mis-applied (or used without self-awareness), it can create a negative effect more than equal to all of the good that is done when the skill is applied properly.

The Meaning of Moderation

Moderation in all things.*
Chilon, ancient Greek philosopher, c. 650 B.C.

Since this precept was first inscribed on a column of the Temple of Delphi in Ancient Greece, innumerable philosophers have weighed in on its meaning.  An alternative translation of the phrase is “nothing in excess.” Does this mean that one should always be moderate in word and deed (i.e., never going to extremes of forcefulness, or passion)?  Or, rather, does it mean having balance (i.e., balancing one strength with other, even if neither are “moderate” in any way)? And, what can this tell us as managers 27 centuries later? Continue reading

Quick Thoughts On Leadership from Around the Blogosphere

As I’ve been becoming more acquainted with the HR and leadership-related “blogosphere” in recent weeks, I’ve compiled a short list of interesting “takes” on leadership and organizations that I wanted to share:

faviconSir Richard Branson on The Art of Delegation (he really means it)

Branson

Billionaire entrepreneur/innovator, Sir Richard Branson, weighs in with an impassioned insight into one of his keys to

building successful organizations: hiring great people . . . and delegating extensively.  Paralleling the first rule of management (“hire good people and get out of their way”), this view will cause great consternation in organizations with “trust issues.”  Continue reading

When Does “Loyalty” Turn Into “Insanity” (or “Hubris”)?

“They’re Not Really Re-hiring Him, Are They?!?!”

Welcome Back??

I was driving into work the other morning, listening to my favorite sports talk show when one of the hosts said something about “Isiah Thomas returning to the Knicks.”  “Nahhhh,” I thought — “that couldn’t possibly be right.”  But, amazingly, it was true.  This set me to pondering the question of “loyalty” (or perhaps, “blind loyalty”).  Where does it stop being a virtue and become something else — something that, when taken to the extreme, can end up “doing no one any favors,” as the expression goes?  And, taken far enough, can it really be a sign of hubris more so that a quality best exemplified by “man’s best friend”?

Continue reading