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Leadership Lessons—Who Cares?

If you are a sports fan I’m sure you’ve already heard all the hubbub about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the National Anthem last Friday night in a preseason game with the Packers. Apparently, this is all about the United States’ treatment of racial minorities.

He told NFL media after the game, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I have strong opinions on this. Very strong. Remember, my son is a combat medic and will serve a tour in Jordan in January fighting for freedom so that Kaepernick can say stuff like this. Most importantly, I respect what our fourth President, James Madison, said when he penned the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Isn’t that cool. Our founding fathers understood there would be Kaepernicks in the world and made sure we supported them.

This week’s leadership article really isn’t about Colin Kaepernick’s or my wife’s favorite team—the 49ers. (She was in San Francisco during the glory years with Joe Montana.)

This week’s article is about the fact that true leaders understand that the world doesn’t care what they think about on political issues!

I loved Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the character Jeff Spicoli played by Sean Penn. Granted he is a great actor, and I don’t care what his net worth is; who he is voting for or his political persuasion. In fact, my second favorite thing about Sean is his ex-wife Robin Wright. I loved her in Forest Gump and Message in a Bottle. Guess what? I don’t care about her political views either.

Another political activist actor that comes to mind? Angelina Jolie. The two things I like most about Angelina are her husband and her dad. What I like has nothing to do with her, her movies or her political thoughts. In my deepest thoughts, I want to ask her husband, Brad Pitt, what it was like to be married to Jennifer Aniston. But I better stop right here!

Her father, John Voight, has about a million great movies. However, I don’t care about his views, either, when it comes to politics, religion, or where I should live or work.

Back to Kaepernick and any athlete, movie star or anyone that thinks it is important they make a statement.

I am your fan for one reason—for what you contribute to your profession. (Okay, except for the Angelina thing with Brad.) If I were a 49ers fan I would care about one thing—if you are a good quarterback. Unfortunately, it is obvious that you are more focused on making a statement than completing a 4th down and 5 pass.

I hope those of us who are leaders or potential leaders understand that our opinion and our political views are important to a very select group of people. Our employees don’t care. They care if we are good bosses.

Most don’t envy us. Maybe they don’t even like who we are. But, they want to make sure we are leading our companies so they have a good job in the future.

You got to love America. The land of opportunity. The land of the First Amendment. The land of brilliant people and leaders who wrote our Constitution and the Amendments to ensure freedom of speech. Now, go out and focus on become the starting quarterback again.

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