By Peter Kozodoy, chief strategy officer of GEM Advertising.
Have you been following the spectacle that has become Lochtegate? Ryan Lochte, the Olympian swimmer, will forever also be known for falsely reporting a crime during the Olympic games. Nothing about the incident is good for anyone or any nation involved. For business owners, Lochtegate has taught us some very important lessons in leadership:
- Accept your position. Whether Lochte accepts it or not, he's a star athlete in a leadership and role model position. While many might decry the unfairness of an athlete assuming this powerful position, that's the way it is -- just as it is with business leaders. In business, we can't choose when to let our guards down, especially when we consider that everyone has the ability to record our poor choices and blast them out over social media. We must choose to make leadership a permanent state of being instead of turning our leadership status on and off depending on the circumstances. If you're in a leadership position, remember it's a full-time responsibility: That mindset will help you make consistently better choices.
- Get media training. Where is the U.S. Olympic Committee in all of this? Where is the media training - the training that tells athletes not to act foolish in the middle of the Olympic Games? As a media practitioner, I can tell you that the simple act of going through media training will make you aware of how the general public will view you if you misstep (hint: it's swift and painful). Once you understand how quickly bad news can spread, you will think twice before misbehaving. The news cycle is ruthless, and reputations can be smashed to pieces in an instant. This has very real connotations to your bottom line -- just look at Lochte's former sponsors.
- Stay vigilant on someone else's turf. Lochte's actions would have certainly been deplorable on American soil. However, when you consider that he was in a foreign country and representing his own nation, his circumstances make his actions that much worse. When you launch in a new industry, attend a conference or even step into the boardroom of a prospective client, be the respectful representative of your brand that your leadership position requires. Listen, observe and analyze the behaviors of your environment. Mimic what you see in order to respect the process and procedure of your host. Most importantly, follow their rules. When you're out of your element, that's when your leadership qualities should shine through the most: This is a time when you should rely on your permanent state of leadership to carry you through an uncertain event.
- Be a good sport. Lochte chose the most inopportune time -- the Olympic Games -- to spin his deceptive tale. Meanwhile, the entire point of the event is to present an exemplary, sportsmanlike atmosphere to the world. Although his case is obvious, it's easy for business leaders to forget that sportsmanlike conduct applies to them, too. After all, we owe a great deal to our brands, our employees, our customers, our vendors, our partners and so on. It's our duty to act with integrity and to appropriately represent the "sport" of business. Otherwise, we run the risk of giving business a bad name, which will make it that much harder for us to succeed together.
Sometimes the best teachers are cautionary tales, and we can certainly learn some good leadership lessons from Lochtegate. Unfortunately for Lochte, it'll be a long time before he recovers from this, no matter what the end result may be.
Peter Kozodoy is an author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and the chief strategy officer of GEM Advertising.