Head coach and self-proclaimed CEO of Notre Dame football Brian Kelly stiff-arms accountability. What should his players take from that?
The NCAA doled out punishment to the Notre Dame football program in late November, turning the Fighting Irish into the Frying Irish.
The governing body determined that a “former student athletic trainer committed academic misconduct by doing substantial course work for two players and impermissibly helped six others.”
Twenty-one wins from the 2012-13 seasons, including a 12-0 streak that put the Irish in the national title game, must now be vacated as part of the leprechaun lambasting.
Bad enough, but what’s really bothersome is the reaction from head coach Brian Kelly, who before the 2016 Fiesta Bowl referred to himself as the CEO of the football program.
Immediately following the announcement, the chief executive had this to say when asked how much culpability he felt for the latest Notre Dame disaster on his watch:
“Zero. None. Absolutely none.”
Kelly’s stance is that rogue, dubious characters perpetrated wrongdoing without his knowledge. He further went on to blast the NCAA for the overly harsh penalty.
He pulled the oldest play out of the playbook: adhering to a victim mentality.
But this wasn’t a scared 21-year-old intern. This was the CEO of a vaunted organization.
So my question is this:
Is this how a leader should act in times of adversity?
I will grant you that the NCAA can be a wildly inconsistent beast.
I will accept that Kelly may not have known about the incident in the least.
But what I struggle with is the stance of zero responsibility and accountability from the undisputed leader of an organization.
It makes it very difficult for an organization to move forward when its leader won’t lean forward.
Even if it means personal pain.
There are times when a leader must, without hesitation, shoulder the burden so that energy can be spent on healing, reparation, and improvement versus finger pointing.
Self-preservation should be nowhere in sight in times of adversity. Period.
Easier said then done though, right? When faced with extreme circumstances, even the best of us would buckle.
But I’ve used a technique in my tenure as a Procter & Gamble leader to help prevent this very scenario from materializing.
It’s what I call an Adversity Manifesto.
We’ve all seen the one-page documents handed out by new leaders that describe who they are and what’s important to them (think “My 10 Principles of Leadership” kind of thing).
Less common is putting in writing for the troops how they can expect you to behave in times of adversity. It’s an open book overture of accountability that says, “This is how I will act in times of adversity. Hold me accountable to these behaviors.”
It sends a powerful message of what to expect when things get sideways, and highly incentivizes accountable behavior from the leader before it’s ever needed.
Here’s the Adversity Manifesto I’ve shared with my teams:
In Times of Adversity:
- I will be the eye of the storm. A calm, cool, collected leader is a beacon. I’ll never forget how many take cues from me.
- I realize adversity reveals true character. I will leverage it as a time to show mine. I know it’s one of the most lasting impressions I can leave.
- I will drive out fear and take accountability. Job number one is to steer the ship back on course. There will be time later to constructively learn from who did/didn’t do what.
- I will assemble a small, nimble coalition of experts for broad problem solving but quick action. I will roll up my sleeves, flow to the work, and over-communicate.
- I will pull on the chain of command for help. Chains exist to provide added strength in times of need. That’s why it’s not called a “thread of command.”
Could Brian Kelly have benefited from having one of these in place for himself?
This article by Scott Mautz also appeared on Inc.com. To read more Inc. articles by Scott Mautz click here.
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