Leadership, and the NPR Firing Fiasco

Juan Williams had one of those “transparent moments.” He said something that sounded politically-incorrect (when extracted from its context). He wandered off-script from the acceptable speech codes of his politically-partisan bosses. He was diagnosed as a bigot and summarily fired by those paragons of tolerance and free speech, National Public Radio.

In some countries, leadership and censorship have always been affiliated. But here…?

Society’s grievance groups will always call for the scalp of anyone that speaks uncomfortable truth in plain terms, because they make no distinction between honest humanity and evil bigotry. But radical Muslim clerics didn’t even have a chance to issue a fatwa on Williams before the imams at NPR tossed the apostate under the bus. After all, he’d committed a capital offense – being himself. Showing some transparency that didn’t conform to the NPR template.

And isn’t that what effective leadership is all about? Keeping the troops in line and punishing those who violate the canons of controlled speech?

On the Twitter #LeadershipChat tonight, we’ll be discussing how leadership operates in this dawning era of increasingly-public transparency. There are new challenges in the area of corporate leadership, brought on by the transparency encouraged (and sometimes, the exposure forced) by our always-on, unfiltered media networks – including our rapidly-growing social networks.

Juan Williams revealed something of himself and paid a price. NPR certainly exposed something of itself and is paying a price in the public discourse. So how do we lead, and how do we express our own humanity, in an environment where transparency may clash with (in)tolerance?

Read what my co-moderator Lisa Petrilli has to say about this topic. Then join us Tuesday night (8 pm ET) for #LeadershipChat on Twitter (hint: one very easy way to participate is by using a client like Tweetchat. Just log in, read the stream of thoughts that are being shared, and feel free to chime in with your reactions and questions.)

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