I just find it incredulous that some leaders and iconic individuals feel so free to be able to say such toe-curling, hair standing, ill considered and quite frankly stupid comments whereby they have to make public apologies, stand down from their positions and retreat into the background to avoid societies’ deserved ire.
Sarah Champion MP (UK member of parliament) and now former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and England Cricket legend and pundit Geoffrey Boycott are only the very latest high profile individuals to fall foul of saying something so ridiculously offensive and no, I will not repeat their comments here, you can find them in the news. You can name many more such incidences I’m sure, but what fascinates me is that this is not just a case of them not reading the ‘memo’ that instructs them not to fall into such poor behaviour; it’s worse than that - I fear that it is part of their inherent characteristics to do so.
When they are asked for their opinions and invited to give their views, they will undoubtedly say what is in their heart……and that’s when they fall into the very trap that they create for themselves. In conversation they feel safe, in their social networking sites they consider it their territory, in the right scenario where the ambience is welcoming, they drop their guard.
OK, so you know all that. And yes, there will be more examples in the future. So how do people avoid the destruction of their reputations? I feel that it’s simple. I broadcast on the television and radio quite a lot and there are some basic principles. Unless it is relevant, avoid any reference to ethnic origins, gender, sexual preferences and religion. If the subject matter is any of those four subjects, then balance, balance and balance every time.
If the individual feels that they are biased or discriminatory in some way, then they may have to work and practice the balanced approach. But at all costs, they must understand that they are being watched, listened to, recorded, noted, replayed, judged. Everything that they say or do to anyone helps to form the view of that person. Most transgressions like swearing or having some sort of revealing wardrobe malfunction could be forgotten over time, but racism, sexism, misogyny and religious hatred will not be. It’s like having an unwanted media ‘tattoo’. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but once it is ‘inked’, it becomes indelible and even if you try to laser it off (or apologise), it still leaves a nasty trace. And, the more colourful it is, the more difficult it is to ignore.
So, if our leaders (or indeed any of us) reflect and feel that they could be prone to such outbursts, it maybe time for them to do something positive, proactive and different about it, come to terms with the fact that you may do some indelible harm to yourself unless you do, or just take extreme care before you press that mental ‘send’ button. It’s important, so pay attention!
As a leader, nStratagem is key to your need to avoid threats to your hard won reputation. We help you maintain your vision, your message and your business continuity and not to mention, your self-control.
Look forward to your thoughts and comments on this article.
Brett Lovegrove is an Associate of nStratagem. We have a great deal of experience in helping leaders and organizations through their development and challenges. Contact us for a discreet discussion.
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