Defend What’s Right
I once worked at a small radio station in my hometown of Coushatta, Louisiana. When school ended, I’d speed off to host The Afternoon Drive Home.
A high school friend and I worked there together. One day, we got into an argument, like high school kids will do. Well, the midday guy heard us arguing.
Now, I’m 16 years old. The midday guy is at least 35, if not 40.
He storms through the door, walks up to me and gets within an inch of my face. He begins to yell.
Pulling back his fist he says, “If you ever argue with her again, you’ll deal with me. She’s like a sister to me!”
All I could say was, “We’re friends…friends disagree and argue.”
The whole time she’s trying to calm him down so he won’t hit me.
The midday guy continues to yell with his fist clenched, threatening to put me on the floor.
No one else was at the station…no one.
Emotions finally calm down. My shift ends and I go home.
When I arrive home, Dad asks, “How was work?”
I tell him what happened.
OH. MY. WORD.
Dad goes to the phone and calls his friend, Reid.
I hear, “Can you be here in five minutes? We have a situation to handle.”
Sure enough, within five minutes, Reid comes screeching in our driveway.
Dad looks at me and says, “Get in the truck. We’re gonna take care of this.”
I notice Dad grab a shotgun as we leave the house. He puts it in the gun rack in the back window of his truck. Reid, Dad and I are now in a truck headed to Hickory Grove Road. It was then it dawned on me — we’re headed to the house of the midday guy. Dad has a gun. Reid is with us…and Reid has a gun.
Dad tells Reid the story. He responds with, “Jack, we can’t stand for this. This man has to be shown he can’t push kids around.”
It’s like I’m in the Twilight Zone. Is this really happening?
Dad makes a turn. He stops in a driveway and leaves the truck running. Dad gets out of the truck and grabs the gun. I’m thinking…
“Is he going to kill him?”
“Is this really going to happen?”
Reid gets out of the truck.
Me? I’m sitting in the truck wondering if I’m going to be part of a crime scene.
Dad starts to yell the guy’s name.
“Bob! Bob!! Bob!!!”
About that time the door opens, and Bob steps onto the porch.
Dad continues to yell, “Bob, I’m Jack Sanders. My son is Brian. Today, you screamed at my son. You got in his face. You clenched a fist and made him believe you were going to hit him. Let me be clear what will happen the next time…”
Dad points the shotgun in the air and pulls the trigger. The sound of the shotgun echoed through the woods.
Dad then says, “Do I make myself clear? Do you understand?”
Bob yells back, “But sir, you don’t understand…”
Dad fires off another shot to the air then yells, “Am I clear?’
Bob exclaims, “Yes, sir. Very clear.”
Dad and Reid got back in the truck. We went back home like nothing had happened.
What’s the leadership lesson? Defend what’s right.
As a leader, you must defend your team, the culture, the mission, the vision and the organization as a whole.
Let’s be clear…don’t grab a gun and scare people into submission. But Dad’s overall example is worthy. He handled an injustice. Leaders must do that as well.
When someone develops a sour attitude that begins to impact the culture, address it.
When team members begin undermining the mission or vision by mocking it or saying that it isn’t important, handle it immediately. If the negativity spreads, your organization will develop a cancer that could kill it. The longer you allow issues to linger, the greater the likelihood those who are spoiling your organization’s culture will think it’s okay to undercut it and your leadership.
Handle the issue privately. If it has spread, then handle it publicly. If needed, fire the person.
Be like Dad…do what is right.
Do that and you’ll be on the path to Leadership Endurance.
For the record, Bob was the best co-worker a person could have had for the remaining two years that I was at the station. He never raised his voice at me again. Imagine that.