Angry students at Penn State took to the streets after the Penn State Board of Trustees fired legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno’s fall from grace came after the Board decided he had not done enough to stop former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, from sexually assaulting young boys over a period of fifteen years.
But the Board did the right thing in firing Paterno and University President, Graham Spanier. Paterno did not report allegations of sexual assault to the police or make sure that those reports were acted on by university officials. He was the patriarch of a prestigious football program, and what his assistant coaches did was his responsibility for better or worse. Yet he failed to act.
Leaders who spend too much time protecting the institution instead of its members often find that this comes back to destroy them. This has happened with almost every human institution – in politics, sports and religion.
A leader needs to get out in front of this, take proactive approaches and work hard against the institution’s normal approach towards protecting itself – sweep scandal under the rug.
I expect these firings not to be the last. I expect we will find out that members of the Board knew and did nothing.
Sweeping things like this under the rug not only almost never works, it destroys any possible trust the institution may need to move forward. Now, who really trusts what even the Board says?
We are not done yet.