What the Penn State issue teaches leaders

The Penn State scandal is a vivid lesson to all of us who are leaders.

Even if you are not a college football fan, you have recently heard a lot about Penn State and Joe Paterno. Coach Paterno and several of the top administrators at Penn State have been accused of covering up (and thus enabling) the terrible child sexual abuse committed by former coach Jerry Sandusky.

As a result, the NCAA levied very stiff penalties on the football program and the university: $60 million fine, loss of bowl appearances, and football scholarships. Some have said the penalty is unjust because it punishes the wrong people; the current players, coaches and students did not commit these acts, but they are suffering consequences because of them.

I don’t wish to argue to whether the penalties were appropriate or not, I want to point out the leadership principle involved: namely, that the actions of leaders have consequences for others.

Leadership is influence. That means that what leaders do impacts others, whether positively or negatively. This should give all of us who are leaders a reason to pause.

The Old Testament describes some kings of Israel as good and others as evil. When the king was faithful to God, the nation prospered. When the king did evil, the nation suffered. ┬áThe average citizen of Israel was impacted by what the leader did (or didn’t) do. It is the nature of leadership.

The students and players are protesting that they didn’t do anything to deserve the loss of a chance to go to a bowl game this year, and they are correct. It was the poor decisions of leaders that caused that. But then again, they didn’t do anything to build Penn State’s facilities, endowment, or anything else that makes Penn State the great school they attend today. The decisions of past leaders resulted in those good benefits, as well.

The point is that leaders impact others in positive and negative ways. So, if you are a leader of a Little League team, small group, or a parent, your actions will impact others. But don’t fear, because the Lord will guide us as leaders as we look to Him. He alone is the perfect leader and King of Kings.

 

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