The taking down of the statue of Joe Paterno at Penn State University is symbolic of what will happen to his entire legacy…an entire lifetime of work and accomplishment.  I am so disappointed to see this, but I agree that it is the right thing to do.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/22/us/penn-state-paterno-statue/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

The leadership of PSU is doing what Joe Paterno did not…demonstrating zero tolerance for this kind of behavior and this kind of leadership.

It is a great lesson for all of us.

  • Do not be deceived by your own power as a leader…or what you THINK is your own power.   Do NOT think that your power is greater than ANY of your constituents.  This is a perfect example of the power of your constituencies.  In this case, the Community has shown that it has the power to “put you out of business”.
  • Recognize that no matter what the situation or who is involved, you must do what is right.   No one person is bigger than the system of values and laws we have.
  • You as a leader must never stand by and allow a violation of what is right or legal to occur and certainly not allow it to continue, no matter who on your team is involved. You cannot allow yourself to be an enabler of such behavior.

For this situation to bring down Joe Paterno…at PSU…well, there cannot be a bigger example for us to drive that lesson home.  It will always bring you down.  As a leader you must be aware enough to recognize the violation…and strong enough to take action against it.  It is an enormous part of your responsibility as a leader.  If you are not aware enough of all that is going on in your organization, then you need to make it possible to be so.  If you are not strong enough to take the kind of action necessary to stop it, then you should not be in a leadership position.

In recent years we, as a society, have moved away from strict adherence to our traditional value systems, and more toward finding ways to cut corners and beat the system.  We have found more ways to justify tolerance of inappropriate behaviors…on many different levels.  This situation should be a call to action for all leaders…we all need to step up our level of ethical behavior.

The quote from the family about the situation now being more about the healing for the children, their families and the community is not the case!  While that is certainly part of it, it is also about preventing this kind of thing from happening again…sending a message of intolerance…showing the damage that inaction can cause.  The leadership of PSU is doing what Joe Paterno did not…demonstrating zero tolerance for this kind of behavior and this kind of leadership.

As a leader, you WILL be faced with ethical issues.  Think about it.  What will you do?

Please pass this on to your teams and other people who might benefit from it…get people thinking about it now so they are ready when the time comes.