Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Category Archives: Breakdowns

Escaping the Stressors of Leadership

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  Guest Post by Mike Figliuolo   The pressure on leaders is increasing every day. Calls for “doing more with less” echo through the halls as ever-escalating expectations create a great deal of stress for leaders. The investment of a leader’s time, energy, and attention (what we call “leadership capital”) is a critical choice leaders make every day. The options for delivering on these heightened expectations are limited. Sure, leaders can step on the proverbial gas pedal and work harder and longer, but play that game too long and the stress will add up. The cumulative effects of these stressors can be devastating. When leaders overwork themselves, their teams tend to do the same. People stay at the office until the boss leaves; their stress levels are correlated with those   …Continue Reading


The Ethical Challenges Faced by Leaders

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  Image credit: Public Domain  “Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.” -James MacGregor Burns We all face ethical challenges and dilemmas, and all the more so if we lead. Think how you would act in the following scenarios: You give the cashier a $10 bill, and she gives you change for a $20. You realize it in the parking lot. Do you trudge back and give her the money? You incur some personal charges on a business trip. Do you fudge some expenses to help cover these costs? Do you overestimate your charitable contributions on your tax form to minimize your reported profit and taxes. Your boss asks you to cover for him with some false excuse while he is absent from work   …Continue Reading


Is Your Organization Headed for a Breakdown?

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Is your organization or team headed for a breakdown? Organizations emit warning signs before breaking down, but the financial signals, such as revenue declines, shrinking margins, and deteriorating working capital ratios, are lagging indicators. Leading indicators are much more important because you can address them before the financials go south. Using our triple-crown framework, here are 20 indicators of organizational breakdowns: Focusing too much on strategy shifts instead of accountability for results Creeping complacency Cutting ethical corners when the pressure is on  Not building ethics into day-to-day processes and decisions Falling prey to short-termism Neglecting integrity, cultural fit, and emotional intelligence in talent selection and promotions Failing to invest adequately in developing leaders with character Not seeking input from everybody in the organization regarding purpose, values, vision Failing to inculcate   …Continue Reading


What’s Different About Leading Startups?

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Interview with Stephen Von Rump Co-Founder and CEO, Giraff Technologies Leaders Speak Series  Stephen Von Rump is Co-Founder and CEO of Giraff Technologies AB. Giraff brings people together in the care of those living at home (e.g., the elderly). Giraff allows you to virtually enter a home from your computer via the Internet and conduct a natural visit by moving a robotic device with a video screen. You can move freely about the home simply by moving your mouse, and interact with the people there via videoconferencing. Those in the home don’t have to do anything. Von Rump has extensive consulting experience in startup and turnaround organizations, and has also held various R&D assignments at MCI and AT&T Bell Laboratories. He has served as the CEO of Be Here Corporation, Metreos   …Continue Reading


The Job of a Lifetime: Leading an Incredible Transformation

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Interview with Nancy Tuor Former Group President CH2M Hill Leaders Speak Series  CH2M HILL, founded in 1946, is a global provider of consulting, design, construction, and operations services for corporations and governments. Headquartered near Denver, the employee-owned company has revenue of over $6 billion and employs over 30,000 people worldwide. CH2M Hill manages large, complex projects around the world such as reconstruction efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, relocation of American military bases in Korea, expansion of the Panama Canal, and projects for the London Olympics. In 2013, the firm was named by Fortune as one of the “100 Best Companies To Work For” for the sixth time and was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere Institute for the fifth time. In 2005, leaders from CH2M Hill successfully closed the Rocky Flats   …Continue Reading


Making It Work as Co-Founders

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Interview with Raj Vinnakota and Eric Adler Co-Founders and Managing Directors, The SEED Foundation Leaders Speak Series  The SEED Foundation partners with urban communities to provide educational opportunities that prepare underserved students for success in college and beyond. SEED’s innovative model integrates a rigorous academic program with a nurturing boarding program, which teaches life skills and provides a safe and secure environment. In 1998 SEED created the first college-preparatory, public boarding school in the U.S. Here are excerpts of our interview with Raj Vinnakota and Eric Adler for Triple Crown Leadership: How would you describe SEED’s leadership approach? Vinnakota: It stems from the conversation that Eric and I had the second time that we met, the same day we decided to leave our jobs and work together to start The SEED   …Continue Reading


What’s So Hard About Ethics?

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Why are ethical breakdowns in organizations so common? Why do so many good people make bad decisions?  Look at the “wall of shame” of organizations abusing trust recently: AIG, Barclays, Bear Stearns, BP, Countrywide Financial, Galleon Group, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ING, Johnson & Johnson, Lehman Brothers, MF Global, Standard Chartered, Walmart, and many more.  It’s not just business, by the way. Look at the doping scandal in cycling (and baseball). Look at Penn State University, the Boy Scouts, and the Catholic Church. Look at governments around the world, from India and Italy to China, Russia, and Venezuela. And there is no shortage of scandals in Washington, D.C.  Look back a little and witness the stock options backdating scandal, then a little further to Arthur Anderson, Enron, MCI Worldcom, Global Crossing,   …Continue Reading


The Leader’s Worst Enemy: Ego

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Of all the leadership traps, none is more fatal than ego. When others around you are whispering how wonderful you are, how fortunate the group is to be led by you, then even the strongest of wills can break. Or, if you are so insecure that you must feed your own ego, then your leadership will fail. People will intuitively sense you are in it for yourself, not them.  Greek myth celebrates the Oracle at Delphi, a powerful city-state around 1600 BCE, where entrances to various temples had inscriptions over their entrances, such as “Know thyself” and “Nothing in excess.” Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, celebrated the “golden mean,” the desirable middle between two extremes. Courage, for example, is the virtue between the two extremes of recklessness and cowardice.  So it   …Continue Reading


Leaders Own Up

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What do Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Lance Armstrong, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o have in common?  They didn’t own up; they tried to cover up.  In case you missed it, Manti Te’o is the All-American, star linebacker on Notre Dame’s football team, who was in the running this past year for the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most prestigious award. Over an extended period, Te’o spoke of many heart-warming and heart-wrenching things in his life, including the death of his grandmother and a relationship he had with a girlfriend who was in a car accident, then suffered from leukemia and ultimately died, inspiring Te’o to more tackles on the field.  Problem was, the “girlfriend” didn’t exist.  Notre Dame carries the story that Te’o was the victim of a cruel hoax,   …Continue Reading


10 Leadership Myths and Half-Truths

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Many leaders operate from half-truths or outright misconceptions about leadership, often leading to major mistakes. Here are examples. LEADERSHIP MYTHS Myth 1: Leaders Are Born, Not Made Many people believe that leaders are born, not made. We disagree. Some people may have more natural intelligence, be more outgoing, have innate speaking skills, or whatever, and these may be helpful in leadership. But leadership skills can be learned, not in the old lecture-take-notes model, but through experience, dialogue, role modeling, feedback, coaching, mentoring, and more. Leadership is learned, not an innate trait of the gifted few.  Myth 2: Leaders Tell Others What to Do Many workers, especially younger ones today, don’t want to be told what to do. Give them a goal and a context in which to achieve it (like some shared   …Continue Reading


A Tireless Focus on Excellence

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Interview with Steven Rothstein President, Perkins School for the Blind Leaders Speak Series  Founded in 1829, Perkins School for the Blind operates in more than sixty countries with revenue of over $50 million. It offers free audio, Braille and large print books, and hundreds of newspapers by phone. The operations are complex, including a school, early intervention program, library, teacher training initiatives, publishing house, manufacturing division, technology division, and special services for the elderly. Marty Linsky, who teaches leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, described Perkins and its President, Steven Rothstein, to us: “Rothstein took an organization that had barely left the 19th century and turned it into the signature organization in the world in services to the blind. He is in my managerial hall of fame. He has completely   …Continue Reading


Walmart Corruption Rampant

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The New York Times broke another story on December 17 on the corruption at Walmart de Mexico and the unwillingness of senior leaders at their Bentonville HQ to pursue the allegations. Reporters David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses to corroborate their allegations. Their findings allege that in one cited case (among 19 across Mexico) Walmart executives were not just paying off officials to expedite approvals that would have come anyway but were engaged in falsifying documents, circumventing laws, bribing officials throughout the country, and even excavating land with protected artifacts and treasures, all to get a store open before the holiday rush in 2004. When senior executives at Walmart’s HQ were alerted to the facts, they shut down the investigation   …Continue Reading


Leading a World-Class Institution

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Interview with Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman President, Princeton University  Leaders Speak Series  Founded in 1746, Princeton University is consistently ranked as one of the finest institutions of higher education in the world. An honor-system school, the university’s informal motto is “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” Distinguished alumni, students, and university leaders range from James Madison to Woodrow Wilson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Jimmy Stewart, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Meg Whitman, Ben Bernanke, Michelle Obama, and many others. Princeton is associated with 36 Nobel Laureates, 19 National Medal of Science winners, seven National Humanities Medal winners, and three current Supreme Court Associate Justices (Alito, Kagan, and Sotomayor). Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman, a Canadian-born molecular biologist, is the 19th president of Princeton, the first   …Continue Reading


It Takes Teamwork, Trust, & Values to Win

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Leadership insights from John Krol Former chairman and CEO, DuPont Leaders Speak Series E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, commonly referred to as DuPont, is one of the world’s largest chemical companies. It was founded in 1802, and its stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. John Krol joined DuPont in 1963 as a chemist and rose through the ranks to be its chairman and CEO. He has been active on many corporate and nonprofit boards, including Tyco International (for which we interviewed him for Triple Crown Leadership). In that interview, Krol also shared insights on his leadership challenges at DuPont. Here are excerpts: Krol: Back in the 1980s, the world changed for DuPont because of globalization. We were very slow to move. DuPont was based   …Continue Reading


Turnaround Priority: Establishing Psychological Stability

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For turnarounds to work, leaders must establish psychological stability in the organization. Too many turnaround leaders focus only on financial stability and neglect this critical element.  In the turmoil of a turnaround, many people are demoralized, afraid, or angry. Some feel misled or on the verge of panic. Logo-inscribed ball caps stay in the closet. Some people bail quickly while others are out looking for new jobs.  The turnaround leader must establish not only financial stability but also psychological stability. People need to be unfrozen, empowered to work on critical projects with confidence.  At a successful turnaround Bob led, where the extreme negative cash flow flipped to healthy positive in a few years, he began to establish psychological stability through an all-day senior staff meeting early in the turnaround. Here   …Continue Reading


A Vision of Great Leadership

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Interview with Ursula Burns Chairman and CEO, Xerox Leaders Speak Series  Ursula M. Burns is chairman and CEO of Xerox. With sales approaching $23 billion, Xerox (NYSE: XRX) is the world’s leading enterprise for business process and document management.  Burns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern and then worked her way up to the top. Alongside then-CEO Anne Mulcahy, Burns worked to restructure Xerox through its turnaround.  Burns became CEO in 2009. Today, she leads the 140,000 people of Xerox who serve clients in more than 160 countries. Burns is also a board director of the American Express Corporation and provides leadership counsel to the National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export   …Continue Reading


Why Tyco Threw Out Its Entire Board

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Interview with John Krol and Ed BreenTyco International Leaders Speak Series John Krol was elected to Tyco’s board in 2002 and served as lead director until 2008. He is the former chairman and CEO of DuPont. Edward Breen was chairman and CEO of Tyco from 2002 until September 2012, when the company separated into three public companies. Breen is currently non-executive chairman of the Tyco board. Prior to joining Tyco, Breen was president and COO of Motorola. Krol and Breen took over the leadership of Tyco International after its former CEO and CFO were jailed. The company, once a Wall Street darling, had fallen into an abyss. We interviewed them about their early leadership moves at Tyco for Triple Crown Leadership: What were the priorities when you arrived at Tyco?   …Continue Reading


Leadership for Bold Social Impact

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Interview with Bill Shore Co-Founder and CEO, Share Our Strength Leaders Speak Series  Share Our Strength began in the basement of a row house on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in 1984, in response to the famine then raging in Ethiopia. Brother and sister Bill Shore and Debbie Shore started the nonprofit organization with the belief that everyone has a strength to share in the global fight against hunger and poverty, and that in these shared strengths lie sustainable solutions. Today, the organization is dedicated to ending childhood hunger in the U.S. by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need every day. Here are edited excerpts of our interview with Bill Shore for Triple Crown Leadership. How would you describe the organization’s leadership approach? Bill Shore: We lead by inspiring   …Continue Reading


How to Make Good Leadership Decisions

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From Lance Armstrong to David Petraeus, how can leaders make so many bone-headed decisions? Leaders need an easy-to-use, bulletproof test for their decision-making. We offer one here. Bob recently attended sessions at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, where Stanford Professor Joseph Grundfest led some fascinating dialogue. We extrapolated the model that follows from that interaction. It is simple, memorable, and powerful: 1. Is it legal?2. Is it ethical?3. Is it smart? Is It Legal? The minimum threshold for all decisions is “Is it legal?” Too many leaders rationalize illegal behavior: • “The chances of getting caught are so small.”• “I’m smart enough to get away with it.”• “Everybody’s doing it.”• “I deserve it.”• “It really isn’t hurting anybody.” Of course, if you are caught, you’ll wonder later how you   …Continue Reading


Adaptable Leadership

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  Interview with Mike Critelli Former CEO and Chairman, Pitney Bowes Leaders Speak Series  Mike Critelli was the CEO of Pitney Bowes (PB) from 1994 until 2007, continuing afterwards as Executive Chairman until 2008. (Check out Mike’s blog: “Open Mike.”) PB, a leading provider of customer communication technologies, was one of the eleven companies identified by Jim Collins as “great” in Good to Great based on its financial performance. PB has also been a perennial award winner in many categories, from one of the top 200 companies for U.S. patents issued every year to a wide array of awards in leadership, technology, diversity, health, environment, and more. Here are excerpts from our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership, our roadmap for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. What were some   …Continue Reading


Do What’s Right

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Interview with Four-Star General Jack Chain Former Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Air Command Leaders Speak Series The Strategic Air Command (SAC) was responsible for America’s land-based strategic bombers and nuclear, intercontinental ballistic missiles from 1946 to 1992. General Jack Chain was Commander-in-Chief of SAC from 1986 to 1991. Here are excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership, our roadmap for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization: What was your approach to leadership when you took command of SAC? Chain: The day after I was sworn in I invited all the officers and senior sergeants on the base in for a beer, told them who I was, my background, what I expected from them, and what they could expect from me. Then I went out to all 52 bases in   …Continue Reading


Translating Mission & Values into Results

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Interview with Bill George Harvard Business School Professor and  Former CEO, Medtronic Leaders Speak Series  Bill George was the COO, then CEO and Chairman, of Medtronic from 1989 through 2002, the years when annual revenue increased an average 18% and earnings increased 22%. A host of innovative products were introduced during this time, and the price-to-earnings ratio of Medtronic’s stock went from 11 to 45. But the Medtronic story goes beyond growth and earnings, demonstrating how to build an excellent, ethical, and enduring company. George is the author of Authentic Leadership, True North (co-authored with Peter Sims), Finding Your True North, and Seven Lessons for Leading in a Crisis. He currently teaches at the Harvard Business School. Here are edited excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership. How would you   …Continue Reading


Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo

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Why do you want to lead? All too often, the answer has breadcrumbs back to ego. The drivers may be disguised in other terms such as recognition, status, power, money, or competitiveness. But it ultimately comes back to ego. Bob recalls an executive who worked with Washington politicians. The executive described the mentality he observed all too often as, not just wanting to defeat an opponent, but to destroy him, burn the body, and then salt the earth over the ashes so the opponent could never rise again. Frightening. Looking at this, psychologists might find some underlying insecurity or inferiority complex, driving some people to extremes. Often, they resort to cutting ethical corners, believing such actions are necessary to get ahead. The ability of the human mind to rationalize its   …Continue Reading


No Jerks Allowed

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“You know what a jerk is when you see it.” -Bob Diamond, Former CEO of Barclays Bank(Source: The Guardian) As CEO, Bob Diamond terminated 30 Barclays Bank staff in 2011 for breaking his “no jerks” rule. Diamond said six staff, who ran up a £44,000 lunch tab in London, epitomized “jerk” bankers. He said the rule applied to bankers who are prima donnas, too greedy, too ostentatious, or poor team players. How do you identify the jerks? When does a valuable maverick cross the line into Jerk-Land? How do you decide who to coach—and who to fire?   Here is our custom-built Jerk Identification System: * Ball Hog: Doesn’t play well with others. Wants the limelight. How to Handle: Emphasize the need to let others shine. Watch closely. * Mutterer: Doesn’t   …Continue Reading


Lance Armstrong Still Racing from the Truth

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 Lance Armstrong was “gaming the system”–exploiting the rules for personal gain. This is so disappointing because Armstrong was one of the most celebrated athletes in the world, with seven consecutive Tour de France championships. Armstrong is also a celebrity cancer survivor and philanthropist. He established the influential Livestrong Foundation, with its popular yellow bracelets, “changing the way the world fights cancer.” The Foundation has raised over $500 million since inception. Good work, indeed. While allegations of blood doping dogged competitors, Armstrong adamantly denied wrongdoing. He proudly proclaimed he had passed hundreds of drug tests. Then everything changed. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency published a 202-page report, detailing overwhelming evidence that Armstrong was doping and encouraging others to dope. Armstrong denies the report’s allegations, but Bill Strickland, editor-at-large of Bicycling magazine, noted   …Continue Reading


The Glorification of Busy

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  We’re all busy. There’s nothing wrong with hard work. To the contrary. Working hard can help us achieve at higher levels and deepen our impact. Here’s the problem: glorifying busy. Using it as a tool to impress. This viral Internet meme—“stop the glorification of busy”—has hit a nerve with people far and wide lately. Busy is the new sexy. Busy is the new sexy.   For leaders, it rankles in two ways. First, running us down. Life and work have their natural rhythms and occasional shocks. If we run all-out all the time, we have nothing left when a real sprint is needed. The wear and tear on our health and resilience can do great damage. Second, the herd effect. This glorification disease is contagious, and it can run   …Continue Reading


Interview with Kit Crawford, Clif Bar

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“Sustainable Leadership”Interview with Kit CrawfordCo-Owner and Co-CEO, Clif Bar & CompanyLeaders Speak Series Clif Bar & Company is a privately held, family- and employee- owned company, creating nutritious and organic food for people-on-the-go. It has achieved double-digit annual revenue growth and won a long list of employment, diversity, and sustainability awards, including making Inc.’s list of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. and Forbes’ “breakaway brands,” in both cases for multiple years. We interviewed Kit Crawford, Co-Owner and Co-CEO with her husband, Gary Erickson, of Clif Bar & Company, about leadership at the company and its commitment to sustainability. Here are excerpts from our interview with Crawford. How would you describe Clif Bar’s leadership approach? Crawford: Our approach to leadership is about staying true to our values as a company   …Continue Reading


Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney

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“Breakdowns and Trans-Generational Culture” Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director, Institute for Enterprise Ethics, University of Denver Leaders Speak Series   Why do so many organizations break down? In recent years, some major corporations have had breakdowns and made significant mis-steps (e.g., BP, Johnson & Johnson, and Toyota). We interviewed Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver, to get his insights into what happened. This is the first in a new series—the Leaders Speak Series—in which we interview leaders about pressing topics. BP made some bold pronouncements about sustainability and corporate responsibility but then ran into major problems with the infamous Gulf oil spill in 2010. What happened? Dr. Sweeney: There is often a wide divide between what is said in the   …Continue Reading


The Legacy of Jim Burke

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(Note: Bob and Gregg Vanourek co-authored this blog with By Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver) Few corporate executives have provided as powerful a role model as James E. Burke, former CEO and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson. He worked at J&J for 40 years and died on September 28, 2012 at the age of 87. We will miss his presence, showing us the way, and encouraging us to be better than we thought we could be. Jim Burke’s leadership produced an extraordinary company. During Burke’s tenure as CEO and Chairman, J&J’s revenue and market capitalization tripled, and its profits quintupled. His crisis management during the famous Tylenol recall, and his performance as a genuine steward of the J&J “Credo” demonstrated his   …Continue Reading


The NFL’s Replacement Ref Debacle

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                  Indecisiveness, loss of control, delayed decisions, anger, and outrage. We’re not talking about the blown calls of the unfortunate Division III refs thrown into the national spotlight due to a labor dispute. We’re talking about the National Football League, arguably the greatest sports organization in the world. How could the NFL have botched it so badly? What leadership lessons can we learn from this fiasco? The NFL incurred huge brand damage for the piddly dollars involved (about $3 million) for the 121 regular, unionized referees. League revenue is just under $10 billion. The League locked out the regular refs in a labor dispute (ditto the players last year). Pressure to settle the lockout mounted after a blown call that changed the   …Continue Reading