In the classic leadership book, It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy , Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, former commander of the USS Benford, recalls his account of developing his crew into a top rated ship. His methodology is still used in the Navy today, as well as in business.
In the book, he referred to “the Washington Post test”. Whenever he was tempted to take ethical shortcuts, his self-test was simple. “If what I’m about to do appeared on the front page of the Washington Post tomorrow, would I be proud or embarrassed? If I knew I would be embarrassed, I would not do it. If I’d be proud, I knew I was generally on the right track.”
He went on to explain never to forget your effect on people. Leaders must understand how they affect people, how infectious their optimism or pessimism is, and how directly they set the tone and spirit of everyone around them.
He even explains that if you “fudge” the truth, you will ingrain your approval for a culture of liars. You set the example.
Which brings us to the question,”Lance Armstrong. What were you thinking?”
Lance Armstrong, apart from his athletic abilities, has done a lot of great things that could make others think of him as a great man. He battled cancer and won. He started a non-profit organisation to battle cancer. Livestrong is a nonprofit organization that provides support for people affected by cancer. His Livestrong.com website promotes a healthy live style.
He founded, with a number of other athletes, Athletes for Hope, a charity that helps professional athletes become involved in charitable causes and aims to inspire non-athletes to volunteer and support the community
Armstrong revolutionized the support behind his well-funded professional road bicycle teams, asking sponsors and suppliers to contribute and act as part of the team.For example, rather than having the different parts of the bike designed and developed by separate companies with little interaction, his teams adopted a Formula One relationship with sponsors and suppliers named “F-One”, having them work together as a team working in close communication.
Being a leader on the team, being leader in cancer care, and being a role model for bicycling as a sport, all seemed to go all down the toilet.
After about a decade of rumors and denials, Lance Armstrong was banned for life from Professional cycling. But he repeatedly denied ever doping until this week where he told Oprah Winfrey in an interview that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
People will not remember his seven consecutive Tour de France record. They will discount his contributions to cancer research.
What will be his legacy? He was a liar. You can’t trust him.
It’s right there on the front page of the Washington Post!!
“I believe that ALL of us are just one step away from stupid. We walk a fine line. And whether our failure is a bad decision or a stupid mistake, we need to learn the right ways to respond to it.” – Dr. John C. Maxwell
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” – William Shakespeare
In your leadership journey, what will be your legacy? No matter what difficult decisions you have to make, give it “the Washington Post test”. Lead by example.
Do you ever think Lance Armstrong will ever regain the trust of the American people? What will be his ultimate legacy?