Integrity Matters: What We Can Learn From The A-Rod Saga

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I’ve been disgusted with the A-Rod saga for a long time.  Yes I’m a Yankee fan, and yes I love winning.  There is no doubt that a talent like A-Rod, (albeit his numbers have plummeted in recent years) is a talent that can tilt the odds in the Yankees favor.

A-Rod Ban

First, let’s try to suspend the steroid issue for a moment, granted that is difficult.  Here’s a superstar with plenty of baggage outside of this core issue.  Yankee leadership had to be struggling with the basics that all leaders confront when it comes to questionable employees:

When is enough, enough?  At what point does the baggage become too much to tolerate?  When does this impact the rest of the organization to the detriment?  The rest of the league?  The fans?  The sponsors?

The answer relative to the Yankees/A-Rod is probably “too much” and has been for years.  And what has Yankees ownership done?  They have sat back while Major League Baseball plays out their investigation.  Guaranteed contracts certainly don’t help.

There is one part of the human anatomy that is dangerous for Leaders to lean on in the decision making process:  Their heels.  

People can find a way to rationalize the “baggage.”  Baggage: Attitudes, surliness, off-field high profile romances, struggles in clutch time that can’t be over-come.  Stupid remarks that erode team-work vs. help it.  Office politics, gossip.  That’s baggage and it erodes performance.

Every organization has it’s “baggage factor.”  There are degrees of baggage everywhere.  You have a bit, average, or excessive.

An organizations “Baggage factor” can be managed. But one factor is simply Non-negotiable in Business:  Integrity.

Why is integrity different than baggage?  

  • There tends to not be “degrees” of integrity.  It is more absolute than baggage.  You have it, or you don’t.

  • If you do NOT have integrity, anything and everything is fair game.  Rules go out the window.  Self-interest trumps organizational/Stakeholder interest.

  • When integrity is questionable, the lines of decision making are blurry at best, vs crisp black and white.  That is dangerous.

The Yankees have been struggling with a clear Integrity issue on their team for years.  They knew this years ago.  They could have acted before hard evidence came out, but chose not to.  It’s easy to be on the outside, and armchair quarterback what they SHOULD do.  That’s not fair, but Fan is short for fanatic correct?  

I gave a prescription for the Yankees options in Feb ’13, which they didn’t take.  They would have been much better off, and their “brand value” would have increased substantially.  And the overall industry (Major League Baseball) would have been further along than the mess they find themselves in now.  

There are times when a market leader needs to suspend “self-interest” for the good of the entire industry.  Like a rising tide that lifts all boats, a falling tide has the same impact.  

Choosing to Lead is often difficult.  Sitting on your heels seems less painful.  But in the long run, the heels rarely are the right part to rest on.

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