Exemplary Follower: Olympian Lilly King

Posted by jlubans on August 15, 2016

Caption: Lilly King Wins

I often write about followers. After all, leading from the middle is as much about being a good follower as it is about effective leadership. So, I took notice when a 19-year-old swimmer went public with her disgust of athletes who dope to gain unfair advantage (and, indirectly, her disgust with the governing agencies failure to firmly discipline for doping).
Way back when, the East Germans were the most blatant dopers; women transmogrifying into men from steroid use. And, now an investigation reveals that Russian athletes, just like during the old USSR, have been doping for years, doing whatever it takes chemically to make the “Bear” rampant over all.
Lilly King was motivated to speak out when a previously banned athlete, Yulia Efimova, was permitted to compete in the 100-meter breaststroke event. Ms. King, a participant, understood better than most what that decision meant: a deserving “clean” athlete would be excluded from the Games. She explained her decision: “I’m not this sweet little girl, that’s not who I am. If I do need to stir it up to put a little fire under my butt, or anybody else, that’s what I’m going to do.”
No “Yes, man” or a Sheep, she’s an effective follower.
But, as you may know, Robert Kelley, the premier researcher of followership, found that followers who make a difference get taken to the woodshed 50% of the time for being impolitic by speaking the truth.
I suspect the Olympic agencies that suppress anti doping sanctions will find a way to punish her. For the moment, she’s raised valid questions and is riding tall. Her winning the gold medal helps keep the “Make No Waves” mob at bay. May her reform banner keep waving on high!
Lilly demonstrates all the characteristics of an effective follower: a mind of her own, high personal values with fairness paramount, an action orientation to righting wrongs, and fearless in dealing with consequences.
I can well imagine her bosses pleading with her - if she asked for permission – to say nothing. Diplomacy will prevail, the cheaters will be punished, eventually. If not, then karma will catch up with them. In any case, the individual cheater will be guilt-ridden. Really?
A doper feels no guilt, everyone else is doing it, so why not she or he? As many ethically challenged politicians will tell you, the end (staying in office) justifies the means.
Ms. King’s stand against doping exposes how traditional organizations - is there any group more traditional or more bureaucratic than the Olympics? – can drift away from fairness into wrongdoing. Despite the loftiest of ideals, Olympic agencies succumb to media dollars, to state demands for medals, and to just plain corruption, X dollars for Y results.
No wonder they prefer to shove talk of doping under the rug, to emulate the “best” political obfuscation, to ameliorate, to lie, diplomatically of course.
Does Ms. King’s calling out Ms. Efimova make her a Russophobe? Hardly. “Do I think people who have been caught should be on the (USA) team?” King asked. “They shouldn’t. It’s unfortunate we have to see that.” Justin Gatlin, the U.S. Olympic sprinter, take note.
Ira Chaleff in his book “The Courageous Follower” states that a “good follower is able to ‘stand up for and stand up to’ the leader. What that means is supporting the leader when he or she is on the right path, and having the courage to let the leader know when she or he is making a mistake, doing something unethical, or potentially harming the group or organization.”

© Copyright John Lubans 2016

« Prev itemNext item »


No comments yet. You can be the first!

Leave comment