Old Rules, New Accountability: When the Hammer Comes Down

Monica Lewinsky, from her government ID photo ...
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It’s not exactly Pink Turns Blue‘s version, but the hammer has came down these last fews month; will things ever be exactly the same?

Consider the following

  • The University of Pittsburgh canned new head football coach Mike Haygood last week, one day after he was arrested on a domestic violence charge. Haygood had recently been hired from his job as head football coach at Miami University and had yet to move into his offices at Pitt.
  • The US Navy  reassigned (the military equivalent of canning) U.S. Enterprise captain Owen Honors this week for his role (as the ship’s former #2-in-command) for producing and distributing inappropriate videos in 2006 and 2007. You can judge for yourself here courtesy Wired / The Virginia Pilot what has been termed “lewd” and “raunchy” with a fair share of homophobic and sexist slurs. (My take? Amazing that anyone in a significant leadership position would produce this stuff in the 21st or latter half of the 20th century.)
  • Hewlett Packard CEO Mark Hurd was asked to resign by the HP Board of Directors this fall for at best fudging expense reports, and at worst inappropriate relations with a female contractor of HP. Hurd had led an HP financial performance turnaround for the past 5 years. What’s agreed is that he failed to follow the HP Code of Conduct. (Hurd was subsequently quickly hired as a co-president by CEO Larry Ellison of Oracle.)
  • CNN fired anchor Rick Sanchez from his post one day after Sanchez participated in a live radio interview where he described Jon Stewart as discriminating and predjucial, and saidI’m telling you that everyone who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority?” (Sanchez was subsequently hired by Fox News.)
  • PBS reporter Juan Williams had his contract terminated recently for his comments pertaining to his reactions to Muslims wearing traditional garb in public. You can see Williams explain his situation here. (Williams was subsequently hired by Fox News.)

There may be fair share of handwringing over the issue of “too much” political correctness. That issue aside, what’s apparent is that the norms and rules that apply to people in leadership and public positions are generally clear. What’s different is that accountability for upholding those standards is being upheld with greater frequency. Fewer “do overs” – a let’s give him one more chance move that probably saved Bill Clinton – after he lied about his activities with a White House aide – from being successfully removed from office for the Monica Lewinsky (pictured above) affair following his impeachment.

Enough already; what’s the cut to the chase?

Take your responsibilities seriously, perhaps even earnestly. Have fun, but read the fine print. Accountability – much like transparency – most of the time is a good thing. It keeps things crisp, more predictable and in the end more “American” – the stuff that makes the United States such a great place.

But like getting ticketed for drunk driving, just don’t expect the “do over.”

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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