In the wake of this week’s suspension of 13 professional baseball players for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, including All-Star Alex Rodriguez, baseball historians are suggesting that it is “finally time for action to be taken.” In 2003 the first baseball drug testing identified 104 players who tested positive, but no actions were taken against them. Sports writers anticipated that Barry Bonds would be suspended, but that didn’t happen. In 2005, Kirk Radomski was busted for supplying over 300 ball players with performance enhancing drugs, but suspensions were limited to far less than that total. And in other professional sports, such as football, hockey or basketball, when have we heard of any players being suspended for drug use?
So why did Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig finally decide “enough was enough?” In Survival of the Hive: 7 Lessons from a Beehive we suggest that leaders must recognize the importance of the survival of the whole organization over the survival of any individuals. Selig finally realized the importance of the bigger issue; the sport of baseball would be at serious risk if drug use was allowed to continue. For years, baseball and other professional sports have tolerated behavior that would be unacceptable in any other workplace. This is what we identify in the book as a realization or emphasis, just as a beehive does, on the importance of survival of the whole over the survival of any star player or leader.
Leaders must promote the good of the whole over the good of any individual. Sometimes, it requires hard decisions for leaders who have a tendency to tolerate unacceptable behavior because someone is a good engineer, or great in sales or finance. We’ve seen this many times as great organizations renew and change their leadership “bench” to maximize the integrity and overall output of the leadership team – most notably Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Steve Jobs of Apple, and President Kennedy after the Cuban Missile Crisis. This tendency to tolerate unacceptable behavior from team members ultimately affects the whole organization and lowers morale and motivation among all employees. In the baseball situation a player who didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs would be at a serious disadvantage competing against a player who did. Ultimately, that environment would change the landscape of the sport all together, and from our perspective (and it seems that of the Commissioner), in a negative way.
The lessons from a beehive suggest that bees are not confused about their number one priority: keeping the colony alive and healthy as a way to ensure its future. With pressure from various stakeholders and constantly changing environments, today’s leaders can become confused about what is important: their own survival or the organization’s survival. During difficult or stressful times, it’s natural to focus on oneself for preservation and miss the importance of the larger mission of a leader. We’re impressed that Selig and others are taking a stand. Baseball has taken an important and historic step in the right direction to preserve the game as a family and All-American pastime.
The questions for every leader, in our blog this week, are: are you tolerating poor behavior from your star players because you’re afraid to rock the boat? Will that poor behavior – multiplied as it’s allowed by more and more leaders – become the cultural norm and ultimately threaten the survival of your organization’s values and mission? Could you see yourself standing up, like Bud Selig has done, against that behavior and saying “enough is enough?”
Deborah Mackin and Matthew Harrington are leadership authors of the recently released, Survival Of The Hive: 7 Leadership Lessons From A Beehive published by Authorhouse Publishing. The new book takes the lid off a beehive and provides a fun, relevant and reflective look at effective leadership through the eyes of one of the world’s most industrious creatures, the honeybee. The authors use the bee colony and specifically Zync, the queen-in-waiting, as an entertaining fable to help leaders build accountability, communicate more effectively, engage and motivate the workforce, and sustain loyalty and commitment.
Survival Of The Hive: 7 Leadership Lessons From A Beehive is available at authorhouse.com, amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. For more information visit www.survivalofthehive.com.