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Don Vandergriff
Military leadership consultant

Don Vandergriff

A retired U.S. Army Major, Don Vandergriff is a teacher, writer and lecturer who specializes in leadership education and training, and the future of warfare.

The road to ruin

Question: Despite suspension over honor code violations and an ongoing investigation into his recruitment, Auburn's Cam Newton last week won the Heisman Trophy--an award meant to honor "pursuit of excellence with integrity." The award raises a dilemma faced by many organizations: In dealing with top performers, how much should leaders overlook corner cutting, rule breaking and other integrity issues?

Yes, Cam Newton is an incredible football player (I love watching him play), but we must care about the total person we hold up for emulation in our society. This is about repairing, not maintaining, the moral fiber of our society, because there is nothing to maintain anymore. The values of our society have become "things," "money" and "time." If we are to survive as a strong nation, we must uphold those that not only meet the standard but those who also, as leaders, encourage their followers to be better than themselves. True leaders want their followers to be stronger at the moral rather than physical level. These are the two types of courage--and it is the moral one that over the long run prevails.

The answer to your original question--"In dealing with top performers, how much should leaders overlook corner cutting, rule breaking and other integrity issues?"--is simple. Zero! It is about setting the example for today's and future generations. How much corner cutting can be measured or tolerated? If you tolerate corner cutting, rule breaking and other integrity issues, then why have standards?

But organizations shy away from addressing these issues, upholding only in theory these so-called high standards they have set through their awards because of political correctness and the lawsuit society. Cam Newton did not know what his father was doing? Then, have his father and him say that under oath! There are big red flags showing on the horizon when his father is also a minister. Wow, what kind of church is this one? The same one that Pastor Eddie Long presides over and makes millions off of? I don't know if it is.

We have become a society that talks the talk, but does not walk the walk. It is called "leading by example," but instead we have become the society that pays, promotes and takes care of stupidity because these actions benefit the elite--be it as puppets or drawing in millions in the entertainment industry. Above all, we're not to disrupt the dollar flow. Cam Newton is going to go far in the draft, which will raise the stakes in some football's teams stock--not to mention all the products the masses will rush to buy with his name on it because he was seen on television using the thing. When a society favors the short-term physical over the long term moral, it is on the road to ruin.

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By Don Vandergriff

 |  December 13, 2010; 3:35 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Corporate leadership , Crisis leadership , Ethics , Failures , Leadership weaknesses , Making mistakes , Organizational Culture , Quarterbacks , Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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