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Leadership Lessons—I Cannot Tell a Lie

The editorial cartoon on Sunday, August 21, in the Waco Tribune-Herald shows Donald Trump running an Olympic event with Hillary Clinton a step behind him entitled, “World’s Fastest and Loosest with the Truth – Gold and Silver Medal Winners.”

It’s sad. We hope that true leaders won’t lie to us—especially when we know that one of these people will be our president and considered the leader of the free world. It remains to be seen what will happen in the next couple of months and how this plays out. Then what happens when it comes to the truth in the next four years?

Something happened with the truth—George Washington isn’t known for telling his father that Johnny, the kid next door, stole George’s hatchet and cut down the tree! Whether it’s a true story or not, we learned about truth illustrated through this fable.

When my kids were little, my daughter told her younger brothers to not lie to dad. (Of course they didn’t listen—but my daughter always told me the truth, whether I wanted to hear what she said or not!)

Which brings me to Ryan Lochte.—winner of my 2016 Pinocchio Award.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, he gets the gold, silver and bronze for lying—giving him 15 Olympic medals . . . three more that the 12 he won legitimately.

Lochte ranks second in swimming nobility, following Michael Phelps. His seven individual Olympic medals rank near the top in men’s swimming. Hero, right? Leader, right?

By now you know the story about how Lochte, Jimmy Feigen (24), Jack Conger (21) and Gunnar Bentz (20) went out partying to celebrate the U.S. Olympic swimming team’s successes and drunkenly vandalized a gas station in the middle of the night.

Lochte (32) was the leader—the Olympic hero. He spun a tale about the four of them getting robbed while taking a cab back to the Olympic Village. The robbers were dressed like police officers. One of them put a run to Lochte’s temple and demanded money.

We were all appalled. We weren’t surprised—Rio! We had heard all of the stories about what a terrible place the city was; the water was unsafe; the Zika virus kept some of our best athletes away; even the chief of security for the Olympics was robbed at knife-point by a robber after the opening ceremony.  Then the diving pool turned green. No one was surprised about what happened to Lochte and our athletes.

Remember how the tale started?

“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet—he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”

 

A couple of days later, he told Matt Lauer in an interview basically the same story—although a few details changed. Everyone knew Ryan Lochte, an American hero. Certainly he might have forgotten a few details with a gun pointed at him—but he wouldn’t make up something like this.

 

Then Saturday night, August 20, in an interview with Lauer, the story changed more:

“I over-exaggerated that story,” Lochte told Lauer on Saturday. “If I had never done that, we would never be in this mess. None of this would’ve happened. It was my immature behavior.”

Over-exaggerated? Perhaps Lochte and I look at this word differently—and I hope that true leaders don’t look at this word like Lochte does. I view over-exaggeration as “I caught a large-mouth bass that weighed 19 pounds,” . . . when the reality was I caught a large-mouth bass that was 13 ½ pounds.”  There was fishing. There was a large mouth bass caught. The over-exaggeration was in the weight.

Lochte just wouldn’t say the two words he needed to say: “I lied.” He said he was hammered. He said the security guards wanted the four to pay for the damage they committed. Lochte must have thought that the words, “I take full responsibility,” means he doesn’t have to simply say, “I lied.”

Then, to show what a good teammate he was to the three guys who were with him, he got out of Dodge as fast as he could. Meaning, he hurried and got back to the U.S. as quickly as possible while his buddies had to stay and take the heat.

We get lessons in life every day about lost leadership opportunities. This is another one that I’ll never forget—at least every four years when I watch Olympic swimming and I say, “Remember the ’16 Olympics and that liar, Ryan Lochte?”

Oh, one more thought on the positive side of Olympic stories.

I hope you saw the Gold Medal ceremony when the Brazil soccer team won their gold medal.  It gave me goose-bumps. Take a second to watch how they sing their National Anthem with each of their hands over their hearts—a lesson for all Americans to watch:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNq-czrmIPA

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