John Maxwell once commented on the time it typically takes to develop your leadership. The first few years in the organization is spent building relationships and showing your worth by the production you do. From years 5 to 7, you begin to see real traction as people recognize your leadership skill and contributions. After year seven, you begin to see results from your reputation in the community. This is why, he points out, if you continually move – from one job to another, from one place to another – you will have difficulty experiencing the larger returns on your leadership. They just don’t come quickly. When you do stick it out, through the good and the bad over the years, you can enjoy some great rewards as a leader.
Amazingly, all those years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice for your vision, can be wiped out so much quicker than you created it. A legacy of great achievement can be removed from the public memory because of a gross violation of leadership ethics. Such is the case with Penn State’s famed head football coach, Joe Paterno. His record as a leader is extensive. He has won many awards and has been honored many times over. His “grand experiment” was to combine excellence in football and academics, thus preparing his young men for success after college. He had a great leadership legacy. Yet his entire life’s work is tarnished. Fourteen years of his victories have been wiped away because of his participation to cover up the active abuse of children by his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky. Because of his decision, his leadership legacy is literally trashed.
He is certainly not the only leader who has done this. We all are susceptible to making these kinds of leadership-destroying decisions. Now, more than ever, leaders need to step up their game. We need to rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of those values and ethics that made our country great. Values like integrity, honesty, and following through with your word. Values like, doing what is right no matter the consequence, need to be upheld. We need to hold each other to a higher standard. People don’t need perfect leaders, but they do need leaders who will pursue and exemplify truth. We can do this. We, as leaders, can help each other live to a higher standard and purpose. One that will bring hope and revival to our culture. One that will inspire creativity and innovation in the market place. One that will bring true prosperity and a legacy worth remembering.
As you look at other leaders and the decisions they made that led to their downfall, do you see similar patterns of behavior or decision making in your own leadership? Who speaks into your life to help you correct dangerous thinking patterns?