Does Money + Power = Lack of Leadership and Integrity?
Over the past few months the media has been flooded with stories of corruption, bad behaviour and a complete lack of integrity in sport, politics and business! What must young people think when they look to supposed role models of leadership? I know what they are thinking because they tell me. Generation Y and now Generation Z (born 1996 – 2010) see no people in politics and business who they want to emulate, and now they are beginning to lose confidence in sports heroes too. And why wouldn’t they. What they are seeing is not what they would like to become as leaders themselves!
Let’s just consider the lack of leadership and integrity in politics first:
- We have Ministers and senior politicians being dismissed for inappropriate behaviour towards staff or peers in bars after corporate events
- We have senior politicians inappropriately using taxpayer’s money for expenses that they are not willing to justify or explain
- We have political leaders in all parties constantly attacking each other personally, rather than articulating important policy or tax reform
Then there’s the lack of integrity and leadership in sport:
- National Rugby League (NRL) players behaving in sexually inappropriate ways, fuelled by alcohol and believing they can do as they please
- Australian Football League (AFL) players and support staff found guilty of performance enhancing substances
- Cricket dogged by rumours of match fixing for financial gain
- International athletics at elite levels dogged by rumours of drug cheats, to the extent that potentially whole countries may be banned from this year’s Olympic Games in Rio
- Corruption in international soccer and the FIFA scandal
- Drug cheats in cycling
- And now even tennis is accused of match fixing for financial gain
And then there’s business:
- Where senior executives can bully more junior staff and try and explain it away, or “get rid of” the whistle blowers, who didn’t actually do anything wrong
- Stealing funds from unions to finance extravagant lifestyles
- Ex-senior executives in a major bank using company funds for strip clubs, huge expense accounts including extravagant amounts spent on alcohol, paying personal expenses on company credit cards, and then admitting that this culture was not only condoned, but encouraged in parts of the organisation!
What is there to admire and aspire to in these examples? Bullying, lack of respect, greed, dishonesty, cheating, stealing and self-interest? Not exactly a recipe for self-leadership or leadership of any kind.
I believe that too much money imbues many with a misplaced sense of power, entitlement and a belief that somehow you are above the law or common decency. Politicians have power and positions of authority which can make some of them believe that somehow this entitles them to exercise that power in inappropriate ways, and then deny it when someone complains about it.
Young athletes across all sports are often paid obscene amounts of money, given hero-worship status and no guidance on how to conduct themselves. This money leads to a misplaced sense of invincibility, lack of responsibility, accountability and respect for anyone they see to be beneath them. Often this can lead to disrespectful behaviour towards women and violence against others, both male and female. I do not buy the excuse: “They are just young men out for a good time with mates who had too much to drink!” At what point does someone think it is a good idea to assault someone else, king hit them, touch up women in a bar or nightclub, urinate on someone’s couch?
What job description in business includes bullying, harassment and sexual harassment as part of someone’s management responsibilities, and when did dropping your pants at a client function seem like a good idea? When did the company’s entertainment policy include visits to strip clubs, “men’s clubs” and spending company funds on yourself and your mates.
We keep blaming the “youth of today” for lacking direction, accountability and taking responsibility for their behaviour and careers. What good examples do they have to follow? The few good role models out there are often found in the Not-For-Profit sector who pay poorly in comparison to our sports stars, business executives and politicians. That just sends the message that working for the good of people, the community and the broader world we live in, is not that important. We tolerate bad behaviour because these individuals either make a lot of money for the organisation, or entertain us.
It is time for every leader, each one of us, to stand up for integrity, honesty, transparency, decency and respect. It is time for us to STOP being bystanders, because “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept!” We cannot expect young people to be accountable, responsible and to be trustworthy when we are giving them no examples to follow!
“Self-leaders are still true leaders even if they have no known followers. True leaders inspire by the influence of their characters and general self-made brands. Leadership is defined by the virtues of one’s behaviour.”