Sterling Racism Demonstrates End to Privacy for Leaders and Measurement Model

Donald Sterling Incident AssessmentThis week, two incidents unfolded where transparency in media revealed the end of privacy for modern leaders. This is a good thing. Here’s why:

1. Accountability is Enforced: Leaders who don’t walk their talk will be held accountable for their actions by stakeholders.
2. The Community Gauges Magnitude: Stakeholders of leaders can influence the overall impact of an incident.

The two incidents revealing this loss of privacy for modern leadership are:

1. Sterling’s Racism: LA Clippers NBA team owner, Donald Sterling, made racist remarks that were captured on tape and broadcast widely. This drew harsh criticism from the community and public at large.

2. False Accusation of Criticism: Head of OutThink Group, Tim Grahl, was accused of negative comments about Social Media legend, Gary Varynerchuk. The community quickly responded, including others on the same call, denying any wrong doing.

The scale of communities and stakeholders impacted by these actions was different. In fact, one seemed largely incorrect. As a result, through social media and other channels, the responses were on appropriate scales. The formula for measuring impact represents these differences:

Magnitude of Incident * Perception of Stakeholders = Impact

Social Impact Formula Examples

For example, the magnitude of Sterling’s racism was perceived extremely inappropriate. Let’s say a 9 / 10. The perception of the stakeholders was huge. Let’s say an 8. It was obviously a negative incident, so the multiplier is -1. The result: ((9*8)*-1) = -72.

Compare that with the much smaller incident regarding Tim Grahl’s comment. Ultimately negated, I’d put magnitude of the issue at only a 1 (somebody did say something, so we can’t suggest 0 impact). Because the community denied any wrong doing, I’d put the perception of stakeholders at a 2. The result: ((1*2)*-1) = -2.

One terrible incident, by a major figure, resulted in a -72. A far smaller incident, by a lesser-known individual was a -2.

Social Media Impact Formula MeasurementThis is how the model of transparency, encouraged and reinforced by digital media, ends privacy for modern leaders. It’s a simple 3 step process:

1. Leader offends a stakeholder
2. Stakeholder shares that offense with the community
3. Community determines the impact of offense

A leader must accept the integrity and responsibilities associated with their power. A lack of doing so results in the removal of their authority. The ability for stakeholders to determine the impact of poor leadership decisions is a step toward greater transparency and ultimately, better leadership. So while privacy is dead for modern leaders, that just may be a good thing.

Question: What do you think? Is the death of privacy for leaders a good thing and is this simple model appropriate?


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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