The last seven days have yielded one of the most powerful displays of leadership that I have ever witnessed. Even if you are not a sports fan, you have likely heard the recent saga of University of Arkansas Football Coach Bobby Petrino. While there are undoubtedly critical lessons we need to learn from Coach Petrino’s story, the REAL leadership story is found in University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long.
This is a story of a leader who found himself in what most people described as a “no-win” situation. Jeff Long had an employee on his team who was an incredible performer. He had achieved almost superstar status from his “customers”. Revenue was at an all-time high largely due to this employee. The national buzz was off the charts and the future looked even brighter than the past. This is a story that we often see in the marketplace, isn’t it? As the leader, what do you do? The only thing riding on the decision is the psyche of a state, a potential national championship and the near-term future of the University of Arkansas.
A good case could be made for forgiveness with discipline. Let’s keep the train on the tracks. Let’s do what most other leaders do. Let’s do what the “world” tells us to do. That is NOT what Jeff Long chose to do.
I have included the full press conference here. If you haven’t seen it, please take time to watch it. You will be amazed. If you have seen it, I encourage you to watch it again. But this time, watch it with your leadership eyes. Go to school on what you see here from a courageous leader.
Here’s a sampling of the leadership lessons I learned:
- Integrity - Doing the right thing, is never the wrong thing.
- Wisdom and Courage - have the wisdom to know what to do, and the courage to do it.
- Compassion - his heart is deeply connected to the mission. He hurt for everyone who lost in this situation (especially the players).
- Details - a great leader is willing to understand and execute.
- Decisiveness - his assuredness created a persuasive confidence in the masses.
- Vision - communicating the future state with confidence creates emotion and commitment.
- Choices - as leaders we face them everyday. Are we willing to do the right thing no matter what the outcome?
- Excuses – it was never about Jeff Long. You can only imagine the turmoil he went through.
- Passion - do we really care about the mission and purpose of our work?
- Influence - last…our work is a platform for influence. Jeff Long made the hard choice. The by-product is an impact in thousands of peoples lives that you can have honor and integrity.