By Chad Bandy
Is it possible that the PR agencies for the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and Santa Claus have been holding emergency damage control teleconferences over Lance Armstrong’s announcement? Is it possible that people will stop believing and questioning whether they are real?
Lance Armstrong is yet another sad example in our society and how our “icons” have disappointed us. We glamorize sports figures and leaders and have faith that they are good people. We yearn and hope for people to look up to and somehow try to channel our desire to be like them. How many athletes have sported “Live Strong” bands in support of his foundation as well as purchased sports equipment and apparel with Armstrong’s signature yellow color? I have a very nice black and yellow elliptical machine in my basement with the “Live Strong” logo on it. So, what can we learn from this?
Life tells us that we will be disappointed by the “leaders” and icons in our life but it is NOT a time to allow ourselves to be cynical. In order for leaders to be successful and employees to be productive, we must ensure an inherent belief that the majority of people and their intent is good. It is vital to the health of organizations that their employees respect and look up to their leaders. It is vital for leaders to revere that responsibility and not take it lightly. Employees want to be led and inspired! Employees will rally around a vision and leaders that make them better. We see examples of this every day. Companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines demonstrate that vision and great leadership create great cultures that can be awesome places to work.
So how do we overcome disappointments like Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Bill Clinton, and Bernie Madoff? The world is full of leaders and figures that are “real people.” Real people make mistakes and should have the opportunity to be forgiven. The manner in which they handle their apology matters. Will Armstrong come clean and explain himself completely to start to recover his reputation? Or, will his interview with Oprah make matters worse? Leaders who made mistakes should come clean and tell the truth. Employees will forgive an authentic leader is like them. No one expects to work for the perfect person who does not make mistakes. What employees are looking for is an authentic leader who can admit when they are wrong and empathize with them.
We as leaders can learn from the misgivings of public figures. Because we have a title or an important role makes us even more responsible to be genuine, authentic, and inspirational leaders that lead with intention. The negative examples and disappointments actually create wonderful opportunities for us to create good in a society that many times assumes things will go bad.
My hope is that the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and Santa are meeting with their teams today to solidify the vision, the development, and the direction of their teams. My hope is they are doubling-down on what kind of leader they want to be and ensure they deliver on their promises! Faith is our leaders is powerful and should never be taken for granted.