Is there more to the Paterno/Murdoch syndrome?

Business Leader Post, August 2, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

I recently discussed the damage that can be done when people hang onto their positions far beyond their years of maximum performance. In the cases of Paterno and Murdoch, there has to be more involved than their inability to let go.

I suspect that Paterno and Murdoch were charismatic personalities, and, like all charismatic people, built up a loyal following that see them through rose colored glasses—they believe that their leaders can do no wrong. Their lives are possibly emboldened by their association with their leaders, and their goal is to remain in their good favor. One may also describe these “admirers” as sycophants—they feed off the success of others.

When a leader and those around him conspire to create an environment in which the preservation of the organization and its leaders trump the values that originally created success, the clock has begun to tick. Some survive. Most do not.

Power is intoxicating. If you are a leader and you do not have push back against and/or disagreement with your ideas, you are at risk. If you do not have people around you to remind you that, like everybody else, you put your pants on one leg at a time, you are at risk.