Both Joe Paterno and Juan Williams were fired by telephone. Both had served their organizations and brought name recognition and success to the brands of Penn State and NPR. Both deserved more respect than they received from their leadership.
Whether you agree with their being fired, no one who has spent much of their career building the reputation of an organization deserves to be fired by telephone. Leaders with integrity have the courage to go face to face to the people they’ve decided to release. It demonstrates dignity and respect – and it keeps those who are still employed from wondering when they’ll be the next to receive “the call”. Steven Sample, in his great book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, called it “shooting your own horse”. A horse owner never asks someone else to put down his horse, and a CEO should never ask someone else to do the firing. Leadership is about holding people accountable – even when you’ll take heat in doing so. It’s also about having the ethics and integrity to make that hard call in person.
This past weekend was my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. We didn’t expect them to make it. My dad, now 91, had been given 30 days to live last Christmas while in the hospital. The doctors said he went downhill so fast, they didn’t expect to stabilize him. He has congestive heart failure and his kidneys aren’t working well. As he says, “I proved them wrong.” So Saturday, we had Christmas on the Farm – an open house to celebrate 60 years of marriage.
A lot of people don’t make 60 years. In fact, when Bill and I say we’ve been married 31 years, we get expressions of surprise. It’s a sad world we live in when long marriages are rare. So celebrating 60 was a way of showing our kids, the grandkids, and friends that it can be done. Dad and Mom love each other deeply – he’s there for her in the early stages of memory loss, she’s there for him when his arthritis starts screaming. It’s what marriage is all about – trust, love, and perseverance . Congratulations Mom and Dad – you are incredible role models.