What crap are you putting up with?
This image, captured perfectly by photographer Wayne Ludbey, is folklore in Australian Sport. Nicky Winmar, a Noongar man from Pengelly, a Wheatbelt town south of Perth (WA), lifting his jumper at Victoria Park in 1993 immediately following a famous St Kilda victory.
His act of courage, not only changed the game, but changed the conversation parents were having with their children.
I read somewhere, that prior to the game, in a conversation with his indigenous teammate Gibert McAdam, when confronted with the racist slurs from the Collingwood crowd, said simply:
“We’re not going to put up with this crap”.
The talented duo then played their hearts out, starring in the first St Kilda win at Collingwood’s hostile home ground in two decades.
Recently I came across a quote from TD Jakes which reads:
“Your words tell others what you think. Your actions tell them what you believe.”
Let’s think about Nicky’s words, a private conversation with a friend and teammate. They are only known 25 years later because of the actions that followed. They should not however, be underestimated in terms of their power and meaning.
I would ask you the question, “What crap are you putting up with?”
It could be behaviours that are not aligned with the values of the organisation, let alone the standards and expectations you are seeking to institutionalise as a leader.
For example, does your organisation gossip, and if so what are you doing about it?
Gossip is insidious. It is bullying in another form, and if leaders turn a blind eye, or are engaging in it, then it is a reflection on them (and you) and severely undermining the capacity to build trust, fundamental to any high-performance culture.
It is not enough to say that it is unacceptable, are you prepared to do something about it?
It wasn’t what Nicky Winmar said, as powerful and succinct as his words were, it is what he did that made the difference. Without the act of lifting his jumper and pointing to his skin, the words are lost in the moment. Instead, he changed the culture of the game, and while it still has much work to do (eg the insufficient and weak response to the Adam Goodes booing a few years ago), it doesn’t ‘put up with this crap’.
So ask yourself, are you matching the values you talk to, with the standards you model, and are you prepared to call people out for behaviours outside of these expectations, regardless of who they are, be it status or ‘technical’ performance?
I can reflect on many times when I did not do this, and with that a sense of shame, even as I write this, at my lack of courage, particularly in the earlier years.
I learned that courage in leadership is both a decision, and a skill, and you need both.
We seek to teach the skill, from which the courage will develop as the leader grows in confidence. It is central to all of our leadership development programmes.
If you are interested in learning more, please get in touch.
Remember, leadership is not what you say…it is what you do.
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