Sharapova shows her class facing professional humiliation

March 9, 2016


The story has shocked the tennis world. Maria Sharapova admits charges of taking performance enhancing-substances after failing a drugs test during the Australian Open

The superstar deals with the career-threatening blow with remarkable panache. This week [March 7 2016] a hastily-arranged press conference attracts a huge gathering of media journalists from beyond the world of tennis. A ‘significant announcement’ is promised.

It was assumed that Sharapova was going to announce her retirement after increasing effects of injuries. We didn’t see what was coming.

A contrite superstar fronts up

Looking upset but controlled, the superstar announces that she has continued taking taken a substance for medical purposes that was placed on the banned list as recently as January.

She accepts the error contravenes the WADA guidelines. However mistaken, she accepts her guilt, while hoping that mitigating circumstances will lessen her punishment.

An example must be made

The sports world splits into those calling for the most severe punishment possible (pour encourager les autres) and those accepting her mitigating circumstances includes her honest admission of guilt.

From a business perceptive, she behaved in the approved fashion and demonstrated leadership abilities rarely seen when a PR crisis blows up.

women in business, Maria Sharipova, Tennis, sports management, WADA, drug abuse, Olympic Games 2016, crisis handling, leadership the business magnate

Sharapova was world number one in tennis, and is proving a world-beater in her business ventures. At one stage, with injuries holding back her tennis, a story developed that she was considering changing her name to Maria Sugarpova. I leave readers to decide whether that was branding candy floss. In any case, the Sharapova brand is highly successful. In 2012 her on-court earnings at $5 million were dwarfed by her endorsements of $20 millions.

Damage limitation

This is damage-limitation big time. Within days of her press conference, three of her lucrative sponsorship contracts were terminated.

She still receives support from her national sports organization in Russia, itself suffering serious allegations about institutionalized drug-taking. The intention is that Sharapova will be in the Russian tennis squad to compete in the Olympic Games in Brazil this summer.

Reckless beyond description

Dick Pound, the instigator of the bombshell of a report into drug testing recently, described Sharipova’s actions as reckless beyond description. Brilliant PR and communication skills sometimes are not enough to protect a train wreck from taking place.


Leaders in the news

November 28, 2015

As November ends, more leadership stories fill the headlines

Marissa Mayer

In preparing posts for LWD I am detecting a reduction in fresh stories of heroic leaders.   Some years ago I could select from several available on any day of the week to discuss with my students. Now the stories more often report leaders whose actions and decisions have turned out badly.

Marissa Mayer

Among  leaders under attack is Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer who finds her turnaround plans in disarray, while facing criticism of a poor approach in dealing with employee engagement.

Read the rest of this entry »


Steve Cram: “We appoint the leaders we deserve”

November 12, 2015

Steve CramNearly ten years ago, the first Leaders We Deserve post was published. Steve Cram suggests its relevance to the current problems of international sporting institutions

Hours after the monumental Press Conference and publication of WADA’s report [9 October 2015] Steve Cram gave his views on the crisis in sports management globally. He was asked why the whole situation had been allowed to go on unchecked. He replied that he was over fifty years old and had been living with drug doping since he was a young (and world-beating) athlete. We are all involved, he added. Media, athletes, administrators … we appointed them, we get the leaders we deserve.

Steve Cram gave a video interview [10 October 2015] in which he elaborated on his earlier remarks:

Cram says “we are all to blame” for allowing people “not up to scratch” to get into powerful positions in world sport, but believes that IAAF president Lord Coe is the man to enact change within athletics.

For those interested, the ABOUT box on our home page traces the conversations with subscribers since the blog started in 2016 and introduces its basic ideas:

The concept behind the Blog’s title is that leadership can be treated as a social concept. We create our leaders, and to some degree build them up and destroy them. In that sense, we are responsible for the influence that leaders exercise over the rest of us. If we understand more about this, we may better understand and mediate the behaviour of leaders (In very early discussion thread, someone rightly pointed out the importance of clarifying ‘who are the ‘we’ in all this).

My previous studies had been mainly of business leaders, but I could see how there could be some similarities, and some differences, in the leadership stories in other fields, such as politics, military and sporting endeavours.