Failed Leadership Stinks from the Head Downwards in Business and at Work


The fish always stinks from the head downwards.

-Turkish Proverb

College basketball and its leadership are not usually on my personal radar. However, Syracuse University’s Head Basketball Coach Jim Boeheim’s response to the NCAA’s penalties this week after their 8-year investigation of Boeheim’s leadership caught my eye:

“The Committee chose to ignore the efforts which I have undertaken over the past 37 years,” Boeheim said, adding that the NCAA instead “chose to focus on the rogue and secretive actions” of a YMCA employee and former director of basketball operations.”

Bottom line:  it’s public finger-pointing at its finest, minus the leadership. In pervasive and repeated compliance gaps like the ones below that happened under Boeheim’s leadership, the buck stops with the leader, whether he had knowledge of the compliance gaps, or not. After 37 years, Boeheim still has not learned this basic leadership lesson.

As reported by numerous media outlets including USA Today, the violations cited by the NCAA are as follows:

Students and staff members committed violations freely, the committee said, or did not know that their conduct violated NCAA rules. Many violations were not detected for years. On at least one occasion, the ruling states, a staff member did not report potential academic violations because of concerns of retaliation.

Syracuse self-reported 10 violations. Among the transgressions cited by the committee, which first sent the university a notice of allegations in 2011:

• The NCAA said that Boeheim failed to monitor the director of basketball operations, Stan Kissel, who committed academic violations after being hired by Boeheim to address academic issues within the program.

• In January 2012, Kissel and a men’s basketball receptionist violated ethical conduct rules when working to restore the eligibility of a basketball player. The staff members completed coursework for the player.

• The university has acknowledged that in 2004-05 a booster provided two men’s basketball and three football players more than $8,000 for volunteering at a local YMCA.

• The NCAA does not require colleges to have drug-testing programs, but if one is adopted, the school is obligated to follow its policy. Syracuse reported to the NCAA that from 2001 to early 2009 it at times failed to follow the written terms of the program regarding players who tested positive for marijuana.

• From 2005 through 2007, the committee said, a part-time tutor and three football players violated NCAA rules when the tutor certified that the student completed the required number of hours for an internship and gave the professor information about the type of activities performed by the students when he had limited knowledge of activities completed. The players received academic credit for misrepresented work, the committee said.

Though Boeheim referenced NCAA rules meetings with compliance staff, the committee said, he operated under assumptions and did not follow up with his staff and students to ensure compliance.

“It’s not enough to say I thought they knew the rules and I thought they were following the rules,” Banowsky said. “There is a higher level of responsibility that attaches to the head coach because ultimately he or she is responsible.”

How will you assume leadership responsibility in good and bad compliance times to ensure your credibility and reputation downwards and overall, in business and at work?

2014-10-05 16.22.19

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