A leader with a commitment to a value like “We stand by our passengers and employees when all hell breaks loose,” or with a commitment to securing the airline’s good reputation, would have jumped all over this event, right away. That leader would have made certain that the whole world knew that both the leader and the airline considered such abuse intolerable, would have rejected racism and discrimination in all its forms, and would have announced that a full internal review of the incident was underway.
On the other hand … when there is a personal commitment to an “it’s all of us” relationship … when the leader does model that value, is personally committed to it, and makes sure it is a personal accountability to every person on the team… an amazing thing happens. Everyone on the team buys into “It’s all of us,” regardless of the role that individual plays … and every member of the team becomes accountable to every other member.
The leadership of a great organization has an obligation to make a special kind of commitment to its employees, a commitment that they can always feel safe in asking for help when they need it, and always feel comfortable enough in their work environment to know they will never be penalized for asking for help. It is obvious  that that wasn’t happening here… and that, right now American is not living up to that commitment. As a result, its customers and its employees are suffering.
Here’s a prediction: Whether or not there is a recession, your organization will thrive over the next few years … if you as the leader recession-proof your team by making and keeping your own personal commitment to the right values.
If we’re leading a team, we need to start that change in thinking by defining accountability for ourselves. Let’s define accountability as “keeping our commitments to people … starting with me keeping my commitments to you.”
I believe most leaders know what’s right. They know they have an inner voice that consistently points them in the right direction. They just don’t always listen to that voice.
Why do we tune out that inner voice? Why do other considerations sway us? Quite frankly, when things aren’t right, I find it’s because we’re focused on money first, and people second — or not at all.
I run into a lot of leaders who mislead themselves — without realizing that’s what’s happening. Here’s how they do it. They say things, like “My people aren’t creative – we need to get a creativity expert in here to talk to them.” Or: “My people aren’t great problem solvers – they need to get better at problem-solving. Go find me a program that will help them improve their problem-solving.”
Here’s the disconnect. Nine times out of ten, the problem is not with the team. The problem is with the leader!
It’s really very simple, if an organization’s culture was really an accountable culture then sexual misconduct could not persist. And, while it probably wouldn’t happen in the first place, at the first sign that sexual misconduct reared it’s ugly head it would be cut off and eliminated in an instant.
When a leader freaks out and starts changing things their people are intensely affected. Inconsistent leadership creates an environment that is full of distractions for the people they lead. When the people are distracted they cannot focus on the purpose, mission and tasks at hand for the enterprise. Great leaders stay steady and they know exactly what to be steady about.
When leadership is indecisive it has a profound effect on the people they lead. Leaders want their employees to bring innovative new ideas and possibilities to the table. The ability to consistently receive those new ideas is based on the consistency that leadership takes in encouraging and embracing the new ideas.