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
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.