Adam Gase was hired by the New York Jets in January to fill a key leadership position: head coach. Like any leader would, he dug right in and got to work.

Unlike any good leader, Gase incredulously pulled a power play and got the very man who hired him, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, fired on Wednesday. For good measure, Gase grabbed the title of interim general manager. Another of Gase's new co-workers, vice president of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger, got the ax too.

Gase's letter grade for his first 100 days? D for dysfunction. It gets better, too. And by better, I mean worse.

Just five days before Maccagnan got fired, Gase publicly defended their relationship--despite reports swirling that the head coach was furious with Maccagnan for botching the NFL Draft and free agency signings.

Worse still: the shocking about-face from Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, who carried out the firing. Seven weeks prior, Johnson, too, had praised Maccagnan and his relationship with Gase.

In a conference call with reporters detailed by ESPN, Johnson said he based his firing decision on a recent "deep-dive" of the inner workings of the organization. A deep-dive he finally got around to, long after the Jets' last game in December left them with a horrific 4-12 record. An inspection he finally found time for after bringing a new head coach in.

Where to kick off (pun intended) the analysis of what's dysfunctional here? Jets leadership has clearly demonstrated three telltale signs of a dysfunctional organization. Write these down in your own leadership playbook -- and then never, ever get caught running these X's and oh-my's:

1. Being out of touch

Johnson comes across as the epitome of an out-of-touch leader. His deep-dive revelations came far too late. His decision to fire Maccagnan came far too late.

Where was Johnson all that time? Too busy helping redesign the Jets' new uniforms? I don't know, but it doesn't sound like he was spending time with his two most important charges.

As a leader, your most important job is to help your organization learn and grow. You can't be in touch with your organization when you're out of touch on the most basic of basics: talent assessment and team building.

2. Lack of transparency

Gase clearly wasn't being transparent, and was likely doing some serious backstabbing. The New York Post reported that just a week before the firing, Gase went so far as to say he was "pissed off" about the stories spreading about a growing rift between him and Maccagnan.

Former NFL executive and Cleveland Browns general manager Mike Lombardi told the Post that Gase is "very good at denying stories that are completely, 1,000 percent true."

Johnson wasn't exactly forthright either, telling reporters this about the firing: "No, this had nothing to do with Adam." As the popular ESPN expletive goes: "C'mon, man!"

Question: Is anything more transparent then when someone's not being transparent? Answer: No.

Humans are smart. We tend to pick up when other people aren't laying down the truth. I've seen it a zillion times in corporate: A leader (and I use the term loosely) thinks they can get away with telling half-truths or boldface mis-truths. They think employees don't pick up on it.

Employees pick up on everything.

And they don't forget. What must Jets quarterback Sam Darnold be thinking? He's probably wondering if he can ever trust anything his new head coach tells him. The same effect happens in every company all around the world. A lack of transparency brings trust to its knees -- and then breaks it over its knee.

3. Failure to collaborate and communicate

Maccagnan and Gase only worked together for four months. That's a reasonable amount of time before you can just blow things up, right? (That was sarcasm.)

While CEO Johnson has clearly been out of touch, information about the dysfunction in his organization couldn't possibly have been flowing smoothly to him. And the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Johnson clearly thought he was in the know, given his earlier glowing assessment of his general manager's and head coach's collaboration. In my experience, the first sign of a toxic culture is when collaboration and communication have broken down.

For the sake of Jets fans -- nay, for business leaders everywhere -- I hope this leadership team is done fumbling.

Published on: May 17, 2019
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