College Sex Scandals, Candor, and Leadership

I woke up this morning to the news that Joe Paterno has been fired as the Head Coach of Penn State football. The President of Penn State, Graham Spanier, is also out. Many believe they are out because of a sex scandal. But the real reason is lack of courageous candor.

Jack Welch said, “I would call lack of candor the biggest dirty little secret in business.”

Lack of courageous candor:

Speaking the truth is harder than knowing the truth. I’ll give you an illustration.

A mid-level manager complained that his supervisor regularly played games on her computer and printed recipes on the company’s printers. However, after that employee was promoted to the same level as his supervisor, things changed.

After his promotion, I asked the same mid-level about his game-playing supervisor. He looked at me like I had three heads. He didn’t know what I was talking about. Now, he felt a need to protect her rather than expose her. It’s the good ole boys club.

The top:

Lack of courageous candor starts at the top. That’s why the President of Penn State is out.

The story of the mid-level who moved from exposing to protecting happens because people at the top don’t want to hear the truth. Or worse yet, if they do hear it, they won’t act.

Power and benefits:

When the boss doesn’t want to hear it, the people won’t say it. That’s the power of leadership.

Welch explains in his book, “Winning,” that candor:

  1. Gets more people in the conversation
  2. Generates speed
  3. Cuts costs

It’s a sad day in Pennsylvania and a sad day for college football. It’s sad because evil happened. Additionally, it’s sad because leaders lacked courageous candor. They knew the truth but didn’t say it.

How can leaders have courageous candor?

What are the dangers of courageous candor?


Read the Grand Jury report.

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