When the mighty fall…

Jimmy Saville. source: http://www.mirror.co.uk

We were shocked by the news of the pedophilia scandal of Jimmy Savile, a BBC children’s show host who died last year, who coerced hundreds of children at the corporation’s studios when they were underage.

It was not just Savile, but also Mark Thompson, who led the British television network who has a question mark hanging over his head, whether he did enough to investigate allegations of the scandal at the BBC. And what about the New York Times who has hired Mark Thompson while he is under investigation at BBC?

This came on the heals of the scandal surrounding Lance Armstrong who was used as a classic example by us motivational speakers as a role model of human potential. A man able to come out of cancer and continue to win the tour de France many times over. With doping allegations against him proven, his empire started tumbling around him with his medals stripped, sponsors such as Nike dumping him and the charitable foundation he founded to fight cancer, ‘Livestrong’, removing him of the chairmanship.

Many years ago, when Ben Johnson was proven of taking performance-enhancing drugs and stripped of his 1988 Olympic gold medal, it didn’t just disappoint him, he let down an entire nation. That’s how big a deal it was.

As students, practitioners and teachers of business leadership we found the research by Jim Collins; ‘Good to Great’ an excellent handbook for companies to build a winning proposition that is sustainable. Less than a decade after the research was published, two of the eleven ‘Good to Great’ companies Circuit City (1982-1997) and Fannie Mae (1984-1999) are no more.

Jim Collins was quick to respond to it and wrote another useful book ‘How the mighty falls’, giving us the learnings from Circuit City’s and ‘Fannie Mae’s fall.

The big question is; ‘ how does these events affect us, who may have been inspired by these people and companies who were once role models and icons that inspired us. Do we give up hope? Do we stop getting inspired from the achievements of other hero’s of our lives? Do we forget the learnings we took form them? Do we hope that they are proven innocent as we saw in the case of the worlds greatest bowler, Muttaiah Muralidharan?

While there can be many responses to these questions, let me give my responses. We should never give up hope. Yes they did achieve something and perhaps acted the way they acted for various reasons that can be attributed to them or others. Even the greatest achievers in the world have their weaknesses. This can be known as the ‘Achilles Heel’, a point of vulnerability or soft spot. I am not suggesting they are forgiven. No they need to be punished to send the right message to future generations so that we try to eliminate
such behavior.

We should not stop being inspired by others, as there is always a lot to learn. They may or may not fall from fame, but that will happen if it has to happen. We should not forget the learnings we took. As explained by Jim Collins in his book, ‘How the mighty fall’, a person who did the right things [exercise, nutrition and rest] and had perfect health, may decline to a poor state of health if he stop these good habits. This does not mean that his practices when he had perfect health needs to be forgotten.

Even the disappointment such stories cause is a learning for us. Learning to do the right thing, learning to forgive, learning to take the positives, leave the negatives and move to make our lives spectacular.

2 thoughts on “When the mighty fall…

  1. Karthik

    Passion is something you must be willing to express if you want to inspire others. And what more examples can we draw than the recently concluded Olympics. It is not about copying a person but, to dream and act on what you want to achieve, while drawing the positives from others.
    1. Gabby Douglas- won Gold in the all-around Gymnastics final and is the first ever African American all around champion! Douglas spoke about racist bullying at Excalibur Gymnastics in an interview with Oprah Winfrey and how it nearly made her quit the sport. She described an incident in which she had heard other girls at the gym say “Why doesn’t Gabby do it? She’s our slave” when chalk needed to be scraped off the bars. Did that make her quit? No she came back and she came back stronger than ever. That’s the inspiration to have an undying quest.
    2. Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani – This was the first Olympics were each country participating country had at least one female participant. Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani were the first women to ever compete in an Olympic Games for Saudi Arabia. They did not progress far in the competition, the progression that they represented for their countries is immeasurable. Both were greeted with standing ovations. This is groundbreaking, and truly inspiring!
    Humans do get disheartened when their hero falls from his caliber and does something wrong. But, in the world there are billions of people and each of them have something good in them to inspire everyone around them.

    Great article Sir!


  2. Big systems (big companies) and even big brands (like a TV star) have a built in flaws that most do not watch or care about until it is too late.

    1. The bigger the system the greater the chance it will fail and/or end up crushing itself due to loss of focus and care. Big companies can come to lose clients because the think they are better and beyond the need of any one client.

    Bigger systems need to break down into smaller or niched views of the world and them selves.

    2. Those that surround big systems and gain benefit from them most likely will not tell those in charge what might be obvious to others. When we learned more about the issues with Savile we learned that there were many who knew or had a feeling there was something wrong – even the victims spoke out and those in the big broadcasting system turned a blind eye.

    Bigger systems need outside eyes and voices not impacted by the benefit to self to talk freely.

    When any business or system gets over 10 people the challenges to fully understand what and how each person is impacting the end result becomes very hard.


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