The 2018 Winter Olympic are set to begin in just a few weeks, this time held in the South Korea county of PyeongChang. A total of 94 countries will be competing this year in 15 events, from bobsledding and ski jumping, to figure skating and ice hockey. And while a huge fan of the summer games, it was not until four years ago, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, that I ever sat down to watch any of these winter events, perhaps due to the fact that it was difficult to find a warm enough place in my heart to watch any athlete compete in 20 degrees or below temperature.
But what caught my attention four years ago was not something that was happening on the slopes, but rather in the press studio. Bob Costas, who for nearly 26 years had been the primetime broadcaster and host for NBC’s coverage of both the Summer and Winter Olympic games, had contracted pinkeye (or conjunctivitis) in his left eye prior to the opening ceremonies of the 2014 games. Throughout the first week of the games, social media and news outlets everywhere were captivated by his infection, and how it seemed to be getting worse by the day.
And although Bob made several attempts to push through it and continue to host, including trading in his contact lenses for glasses in order to distract viewers from the redness in his eye, the infection eventually spread into his other eye, causing both to be swollen and nearly shut. Knowing that Bob was becoming more of a spectacle than the games themselves, NBC executives decided to have then Today show host Matt Lauer step in and take his place.
With the understanding that pinkeye is something that can take 7-10 days to fully heal, and that is also considered a highly viral and contagious infection, I never understood why NBC did not make the decision to replace Costas earlier on before his condition became the social media storm it did.
It poses a question I believe every organization will have to answer one day:
“What do you do when someone on your team, who is responsible for leading others, is no longer able to see clearly themselves?”
When the vision of a trusted leader or staff member who has performed with excellence in the past, now appears to be infected, dry and with the potential of having a negative effect on those around him or her, what steps do you take in order to insure that the situation is resolved quickly and without injury?
In situations like these, it is very important to understand the difference between loyalty and honor.
Whether it is in the field of athletics, politics, education, or even ministry, the values we hold about loyalty can sometimes keep a leader in a position who is no longer able to perform his or her duties effectively, simply based on how they may have performed or maintained their commitment in the past.
However as leaders, we should never allow our loyalty TO someone supersede the honor we should have FOR someone and those they are connected to or have influence over.
Honor will insure that a leader, as well as those he or she is leading, are always positioned for respect and admiration. It was clear that NBC wanted to demonstrate loyalty to Bob and allow him to continue, but in the end, it was their honor for Bob’s condition and their disgruntled international television audience that had the final say.
Whether your organization is in a season of winter or summer, knowing the difference can make all the difference.