Saturday, April 24, 2010

If 'Everybody's doing it' does that make it okay?




The revelations of the systematic cheating by the Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club raises issues that extend far beyond Rugby League and the club itself. Assuming that the reported statement by the Melbourne Storm Chairman Dr Rob Moodie that Brian Waldron, the accused architect of the cheating strategy, told him that he had done what he had done because, "Everybody's doing it!" is accurate, it raises an issue for all of us. (Please keep in mind that at the point in time of writing this article there is no evidence that Brian Waldron's statement that everybody else is doing it is accurate.)

As appalling an excuse as this excuse sounds, my view is that many people do use this excuse for their behaviour. Whether it be taking illegal drugs, drinking too much alcohol, backstabbing another person behind their back, not telling your manager or direct reports the truth, people claim that their behaviour is okay because other people are doing it.

To me, leadership starts with yourself. If you can't lead yourself, then you are going to struggle to lead other people. As we have seen with Brian Waldron many people would have considered him successful up until Thursday afternoon. After all he had guided the Melbourne Storm through a period of apparent on-field and off-field success. This story highlights that there are consequences for not taking a stand for doing what is right. It may be true that if Melbourne Storm had played according to the rules then they may not have won their (now lost) premierships. We will never know. We do know that their brand has been damaged and two major sponsors have already cancelled their arrangements with the club due to the clash of values that has come to the surface as a result of this exposure. If you have ever wondered whether there is a financial cost for lacking integrity in business, here is your proof!

This is why I always laugh when people talk about developing the 'soft skills' of management. To me, the so called 'soft skills', which include acting with integrity, are the hardest skills to master, which is why so many people struggle to properly develop them. The term 'soft' somehow suggests that they are easy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

To me leadership starts with doing what is right from a personal point of view. This means that many people will never know when you have shown true leadership, because the vast amount of leadership takes place when no one is looking. I suspect that there are a lot of good people at the Melbourne Storm who possess high integrity. While this must be an extraordinarily difficult time for them I suspect that many will stay to rebuild the club's integrity. In many ways, providing the people running the club at all levels honestly embrace the opportunity that they have before them, they could use this terrible event to create an organisation of the highest order. On many levels I hope that they can.

The final message for each of us from this story is to challenge ourselves not to do any behaviour just because we believe that other people are doing it. If our moral compass tells us that something is wrong, then we should listen and take action that is guided by that compass. It is far better to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with the quality of the person staring back at you, rather than seeing a smug person who is hoping they never get caught for doing what they know is wrong.

Please feel free to comment on this article.

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