I’ve been in the airport twice in the last week where conversations around me were about the debacle in Rio.  I’m guessing I don’t have to mention Ryan Lochte‘s name for you to know what I’m talking about. He enjoyed a long night out on the town after he was done competing, and that included some property damage and half-truths. The choices we make, in the instant we make them, are a reminder of the ethical and moral guideposts we each have, and the thin veil that is easily pierced in a moment’s notice.

Easy to judge? Yes. None of us would have tried to cover up our bad behavior (our bad choice) by playing into the media reports on crime in Rio. Check yourself for a minute. How easy is it to find an excuse for being late (for instance, and a much smaller incident than Mr. Lochte was involved in)?

True leadership starts with self-awareness. Being thrust into the spotlight (celebrity status) doesn’t mean you suddenly have the leadership skills to navigate challenging situations, and for that I have compassion for Mr. Lochte.  It’s a thin veil between confidence and arrogance, and understanding where ego is overriding values provides a starting point. This is where I know there is opportunity for our industry. Our values drive us, and once we pierce the veil, our morals shift and we find ourselves justifying and rationalizing one decision after another.  Hence the ongoing evolution of the story Mr. Lochte told.

He had a reputation to protect. Know that feeling? Law firms are focused on business development, having a outward facing reputation that is medal-worthy. That’s not the same as maintaining your character. The person who has one reputation to the world, and has another inside your firm is exactly what happened here. Mr. Lochte has been protecting his reputation at the expense of his character. We all point to it with obvious awareness.  Bring that same awareness to your own life.

Taking responsibility for your mistakes actually makes your stronger. Owning the places where you pierce the veil allows you to repair it. And that’s being human.  Making mistakes and repairing them. I hope Mr. Lochte can repair.  He’s lost a lot in sponsorship dollars, and more importantly, he’s lost a lot of his character.

Let’s learn and grow through his experience.


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