Mar
19

Leadership, Integrity, Trust…and Ski-Racing

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If you know the work of Enlightened Leadership Solutions, you know that we believe–and have experienced many times–that leadership can come from anywhere in an organization, from any level.

We challenge people to look at the kind of leadership they provide, with the knowledge that others in the organization are watching them and taking cues from them about what is important and valued, based on the behaviors they observe. Without integrity, an organization is eventually doomed to failure–karma, if you will.

In these dramatically changing times, individuals with integrity are beginning to step up as courageous leaders to challenge the direction of their firms.  An example is the recent exposé of Goldman Sachs by Greg Smith, in his op-ed to the New York Times called, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.”

Our personal integrity (or lack thereof) has a trickle-down or trickle-up effect on many people. How we do or do not demonstrate integrity sends a message about who we are. How does the lack of integrity affect us as individuals? That’s our focus today.

I had an example of low integrity this weekend that really got me thinking about this. It turned out to be a real gift, even though that was not my first reaction.

As my 11- and 12-year-old nephews have shown interest in snow ski racing through a fun, family-oriented organization called NASTAR, I reengaged in the sport primarily to support and coach them. Any parent can imagine the thrills I’ve experienced while watching their performance breakthroughs.

Well, a funny thing happened along the way. I managed to qualify myselffor the NASTAR National Championships to be held here in Colorado, much to my excitement. It reignited my competitive spirit and I began to race more to prepare for the championships, which I saw as both challenging and fun. Besides, my nephews qualified too, so we could make it a family event.

Because NASTAR is so family-oriented at the ski resort level, it never crossed my mind that the game would change at the national level. I was in for a rude awakening. (And, no, I haven’t forgotten that we’re discussing integrity.)  I discovered this weekend that I could go online and find out who has registered to race at the nationals and see their race results. Cool!

Now, lest you get the impression that I am some great skier, let me put this into perspective. Males and females are put into age categories and also into divisions based on their capability. For example, I am in the “male, age 60–64, silver” division. There are bronze, silver, gold and platinum divisions for each age group. My silver division is for men whose calculated handicaps based on ability are between 31–45. The next level is gold division for handicaps 17-30. Platinum is 16 or better.

What division you’re in is based on a somewhat complicated formula that puts people in the appropriate division based on their capability. I just discovered that at the national championship level, some people choose to cheat the system so they can win, because they understand the formula. Are we understanding that “cheat the system” means “out of integrity”?

It shocked me, and frankly, it initially took the fun out of competing. A man in my division only “officially” raced one day before the deadline for national qualifications. Understanding the “system,” he managed to ski slow enough to average a 39.45 handicap, which put him in the middle of the silver division–my division.

Then, with the qualifying deadline past, this same man raced some 58 more times over the next three weeks or so. You have to be serious to race that many times! That’s probably close to the number of races I’ve done in my lifetime!

Here’s the interesting part: his average handicap over those 58 races was 19.29, dramatically lower than his average of 39.45 in his nationals qualifying races. His 19.29 average puts him solidly in the BEST of the gold division.  Yet because he chose to “play the system,” he will compete against considerably less capable skiiers in the silver division.

Part of the issue, of course, is with the NASTAR rules. Something this blatant should not be allowed and the system doesn’t handle it.

For our discussion, though, think about the integrity issue. This man will win the “male, 60-64, silver” division with ease, as long as he simply skis his average race.  But what is the cost to him?

How will he feel standing on the silver podium, knowing that he beat other men who are not even in his ability class? How will it affect his own self-esteem in the end? What loss of respect will there be from family, friends, business associates, and fellow racers who know what he did? How will their trust in him be affected? Will it be worth it for the bragging rights? I don’t know his answer…but I do know mine and I thank him for helping me get clear.

The quality of our leadership is directly related to the quality of our integrity. How people trust us is directly related to the quality of our integrity. People all around us are watching our behaviors. What kind of integrity and leadership are we demonstrating?

This is a great lesson for me. You can bet that the next time I’m tempted to “cheat just a little” on something, I’ll remember the costs to this man.

And while I was initially discouraged about competing in NASTAR nationals, I now have it all back into perspective…and I’m grateful for that. I will do my best to be a positive role model for my nephews, in terms of how I handle this situation.  I will go out and do my best in the races–and yes, I will have fun!

Categories : Good Leader

4 Comments

1

So you did your best and when you walked away, you felt good about the effort that you put in. Or did you?

In every sport there are those who “have to win” at all costs. They manage to convince themselves that when you compete everything is fair game as long as you win. That type of behavior is fairly common in many organizations/ companies around the world.

One of the best sports in the world is golf. You are allowed to keep your own score and your handicap is determined by the number of score cards you hand in. At every golf club in the world the “cheaters” can be spotted as they marked down the wrong score and some players have been spotted kicking their ball out of the rough to get a better lie. In a survey it has been estimated that when asked 27% of all golfers lie about their handicap. But who are they really cheating. – themselves

I have been privileged to coached in the wonderful Special Olympic Program and I just wish their motto could be the motto of every participant that plays sports,including the professionals who have made many of their sports a joke due to the use of drugs etc.

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt” Words to live by.

Take care and keep up the good work.

2

Thank you for the post. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that there are people who “play the system” and seem to love the game. Short term success is handed to them and they are as proud as a peacock for “achieving’ it. What I have to remind myself is to not start ‘spitting” about them but to stay focused on what I believe and like you, just do my best.

3

Thanks for using my photo of the skier. I coach FLL robotics to kids and I try to instill the idea that we all when we push each other to do our best. I’ve only run across a few kids for which winning was everything but I think it was driven by the idea that it was the only way to get positive attention from their parents. People need to feel for themselves what it means to do their best even if no one is around to pat them on their back. They have to develop inner pride.

4

thanks for the post, I am firmly of the opinion that the current ‘crisis’ is bringing out the best in many people and showing up those who lack a ‘best’ for us all to see.
Working hard & staying ahead of the market still count for much and most of all integrity and warmth are all important

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