‘Ethical leadership in sport – What’s your ENDgame?

  Sporting Compass: With Dr Pippa Grange and Paul Oliver

Dr Pippa GrangePaul Oliver

As a sports psychologist and founder of Bluestone Edge, I am fortunate to have many conversations with people about the substance and meaning of sport.
My colleague Paul Oliver also engages with people at all levels across the sporting sector to keep his finger on the pulse of the latest news, views and issues.

In this space each fortnight, we will share some of these stories, insights and possibilities in relation to people, culture, ethics and leadership in sport. I hope you enjoy the conversation and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

All the best, Pippa and Paul


‘Ethical leadership in sport – What’s your ENDgame?

10 April 2014
Category:   ETHICS AND INTEGRITY – what should we do?
Dr Pippa Grange

Following last week’s well-attended BOSS Summit (Business of Sport Summit) via Twitter has re-affirmed to me that the mark of the next era of sport is going to be questions of ethics and integrity.

Many of the comments posted reflect that integrity has underlined every theme raised at the event – competitive balance, fair play, developing the brand, relationships with multiple stakeholders… the list goes on.

Almost every presentation at BOSS also had one other factor at its core – communication; it’s not enough just to know something for yourself as a leader in sport, your integrity needs to be consistently demonstrated in word and deed to fans and members, sponsors, partners, colleagues, team-mates and the community. Expectations have changed, and so must the old-school mantra of battening down the hatches until things settle down, presuming integrity issues will blow over in time. Not only does closing down lower trust all round, it is when things do quietly get back to ‘normal’ that integrity risks may just run the highest.

My new book, ‘Ethical Leadership in Sport: What’s your ENDgame?’ focuses on supporting sports’ leaders to navigate some of the complexities of modern sport more ethically. It is unquestionably the leader’s job to set the tone of integrity in an organisation. This is easier said than done for a couple of reasons. First, it takes confidence and competence to voice your values in the face of pressure; let’s face it – it’s always easier to kick with the wind. Most people know right from wrong, most people understand what they ‘should’ do, but not everyone can claim to act on that knowledge, because they are not sure how to do so without causing a firestorm or paying too high a cost. Second, we often seriously overestimate ourselves as ethical and even act against our own values. We pay attention to the parts of ourselves that we rate more highly and ignore all the discrepancies that ‘slip through to the keeper’, allowing us to maintain a convenient view of our leadership as ethically sound and informed. The bottom line is, ‘doing ethics’ is something you can learn, and ‘ENDgame’ was written to help that endeavor.

My aspirations for the book are that it helps people to bridge the gap between who they are today and who they want to be as ethical leaders, by deepening their knowledge on what ethics and integrity actually entail, and investigating the nature of their own ethical failings – the erosion of intent that ends up in choices that are later regretted.

Recognizing what we allow ourselves and ‘our favourites’ to get away with is a great starting point – something ENDgame explores in Chapter 4, ‘What you might see at the top of the slippery slope’. For example, you may recognize justifications for why something contrary to your values was OK (‘we wouldn’t normally have done it, but these are unusual times, big competition, this is our window of opportunity’ etc.), or distortions of the truth (‘it was a one-off, she’s clean as a whistle normally’ etc.), or rationalizations for acting or not acting (‘yes, but he is the King around here we can’t question him’… or ‘if we didn’t do it, someone else would have’ etc.).

Ethical leadership is personal. It goes way beyond rules and compliance to the very heart of your beliefs about sport, what you believe is fair, good, right, or wrong and the evidence of your own behavior. Making a sound decision is only the very start, living your values is the real task at hand for the leader.

I believe that unless ethics secures a place at the leadership table and in the culture of sporting organisations, integrity in sport will remain under threat. ENDgame is like half a dozen one-on-one private coaching sessions that offer knowledge that leaders can use immediately to improve.

Ethical Leadership in Sport: What’s your ENDgame?,?published by Business Expert Press, can be ordered online at: http://www.businessexpertpress.com/books/ethical-leadership-sport-whats-your-endgame

For a synopsis and preview of the book go to: http://bluestoneedge.com/ethical-leadership-in-sport-whats-your-endgame/

I hope that there is something in it for you.

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