Leaders MUST Have a Moral Threshold!
I love college sports. I love the pageantry, the effort on the part of the student athletes, and the way it can unify both a college and a community. What I don’t like is when things “come off the rails” in terms of scandals, misconduct, and controversies caused, often at the hands of those coaches and staff charged with keeping the program on the right course. This is clearly a failure of leadership and has me thinking out loud if the individuals responsible for this malfeasance even have a moral threshold in the first place!
Just in case you don’t follow college sports news, this spring and early summer, several athletic programs from major institutions have had allegations made against them by the NCAA in terms of specific violations. These allegations involve academic fraud, inappropriate booster involvement, certain players receiving special benefits not allowed under NCAA rules and even sexual misconduct involving current and prospective players. In each case, the head coaches and athletic directors have disavowed any direct knowledge of the incidents.
I guess the question for me is how accurate are pronouncements? Granted, they may not have known about the first incident, but patterns of repeated behaviors are hard to hide. Further, in this day of social media and smart phones that allow the instant sharing of information, events, etc., secrets are almost a thing of the past. It still amazes me how a politician, celebrity, or sports star thinks that their words and deeds will not eventually become public! They are either just that arrogant or just that clueless.
What is Your Moral Threshold? – It Matters!
But back to the point of this week’s blog. If you are a leader, you set the moral threshold. You may not like it or it may be inconvenient for you to believe it. Too bad! Your words, actions, statements, etc. set the culture of your team, school, business, organization, etc. If you follow this blog, you have often seen me quote author and consultant, Dr. Henry Cloud who shares, organizational cultures are established by what we allow and by what we create. So, if some incident occurs or an unhealthy pattern of behavior develops that makes you uncomfortable, that is a you and you deal. In the final analysis regarding the recent news stories I referenced above, it was the head coaches job to set the moral threshold of their team for both their staff and players. Even better, it was their supervisor’s responsibility to do so. Even still, the ultimate responsibility rests with the President of the institution. I have had the pleasure to work for several great college and university presidents and I knew full well their expectations of me as a junior to a more senior staff member and I acted accordingly versus to the contrary.
So back to my blog title, you must have a moral threshold. Have you ever thought about what is and is not appropriate conduct among those involved in your enterprise? If not, why not? If so, great, but does everyone know what your expectations are? Here’s the thing, I am sure that you are a leader of integrity that holds yourself to high standards on a consistent basis but it cannot end there. You can’t just assume that your down-line team members are as well. They may in some areas but not in others.
As in the examples provided above, I bet in certain segments of their lives, those responsible for facilitating such misconduct are normally decent people. But sometimes values and priorities come into competition with each other. For instance, the value of integrity with the priority of recruiting/retaining the best class of players possible.
When Priorities Collide! – Do you Choose Integrity?
It is exactly during those times when such priorities collide that your team members know what wins! In other words, let’s assume you constantly communicate to your team the importance of doing business ethically but suddenly one of your team members has the opportunity to make a sale of such proportions that it would change the trajectory of your enterprise, however, it would require a bending of those principals, what wins? Do they know what to choose (or what the moral threshold is) AND that they would be rewarded for doing so? That’s a tough call but it can be made easier if you would consider, record, and then share the following:
- What are your moral and ethical “non-negotiables” or absolutes?
- In the gray areas (where, unfortunately, most issues and situations reside!), what values and principals “win out” among all others? In other words, what should everyone in the organization default to in light of tough choices?
- How will the team be assured they will not be censured or punished for making the tough calls that align with your organization values?
- How will you continually communicate what is important for everyone, every day, and all the time in terms of your moral threshold?
One more thing to consider. As a leader, you have a responsibility to set the moral threshold but you also have the obligation to involve others in the discussion. You can always have veto power but as the old leadership maxim goes, people support what they help create!
As always if I can help you and the people you associate with Get Better, Be Ready and LEAD OUT LOUD, I would invite you to email me or to visit my website below and see if any of the training or coaching experiences I offer can provide an impact! In fact, I conduct two workshops on Leadership Ethics and Establishing Organizational Values. Such initiatives would be critical to the health and future of your organization!
Yours in Leadership,
Principal Consultant – Out Loud Strategies, Inc.
Independent Coach, Speaker, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team TM
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Principal Consultant – Out Loud Strategies