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Character and Consequence

This past week the National Football League uncovered a bounty program for players of one of the top teams in the league. The bounty pool rewarded players with big-dollar payoffs for knocking targeted opponents out of games. I am a huge fan of professional football, so you can imagine my disappointment to learn that leaders of a team would award a financial bonus for injuring opposing players in a game.

There are so many leadership (or lack of leadership) lessons in this story. The two most significant for me are character and consequence. Let’s look at the character issue first:

“It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it.”

This was a statement made by the man who ran the bounty. An NFL spokesman said they would look at “any relevant info regarding rules being broken.” Have all the rules you want, but they simply cannot replace character. This didn’t happen because rules weren’t in place or expectations were not clearly communicated. When someone lacks character, he/she will simply spend more time trying to get around the rules (and hoping they don’t get caught).

The decisions we make every day are led by expectations and consequences. I’m guessing potential consequences didn’t drive the proper behavior in this situation. As of now, no punishments have been handed out. However, I’ve heard the punishments could include suspensions, fines, and loss of draft picks. Really? Suspensions, fines, and loss of draft picks. Perhaps jail time would encourage team leaders to not compensate players for inflicting career-ending injuries on opposing players. Even the behavior of people who lack character can be guided when the consequence is severe enough. It all comes down to consequence.

And the same is true for us. Our character is on display each and every day, and our behavior is quite often driven by how we see a consequence.

Clint Swindall

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