Lance Armstrong and Credibility

On Friday, Lance Armstrong was stripped of seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005 on doping charges. The USADA made this decision after reviewing test samples from those years, along with testimony from 10 eye witnesses. Although Travis Tygart, head of the USADA, said that Armstrong might have held on to most of his titles had he cooperated with the investigation, Armstrong declined to do so.

This development is just the final step in many years of accusations and investigations by various officials, and came as no surprise to many. Armstrong has had a checkered past when it comes to his decisions – taking on hero status for his titles and fight with cancer, while at the same time leaving a bad taste for many with the divorce of his strongly supportive wife and the constant doping accusations.

Lance Armstrong is a brand and a company, so what basic principles of business might he look to for guidance? In looking through our extensive library of book summaries, I found Credibility by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. In this book the authors surveyed more than 1,500 managers and 1,000 federal government executives, and from that survey analyzed the key factors that are crucial for good leaders. Here are the four crucial attributes from that analysis:

  1. Honest (truthful, has integrity, has character, is trusting)
  2. Forward-looking (visionary, foresighted, concerned about the future, has a sense of direction)
  3. Inspiring (uplifting, enthusiastic, energetic, humorous, cheerful, optimistic, positive about the future)
  4. Competent (capable, proficient, effective, gets job done, professional)

Kouzes and Posner make the case that credibility makes a real difference in the success of a company. “When people work with leaders they admire and respect, they feel better about themselves.” Quantitative data supports this fact.

The reverse is also true. When people perceive their leaders to have low credibility they are less likely to feel good about themselves, and have lower levels of attachment, engagement and ownership.

In the case of Lance Armstrong, Tygart may have put it best. “The agency would’ve reduced Armstrong’s punishment ‘if he would have been truthful and willing to meet to help the sport move forward for the good,’ Tygart says. ‘Of course, this is still possible and we always remain open, because while the truth hurts, ultimately, from what we have seen in these types of cases, acknowledging the truth is the best way forward.’” Perhaps there is a way forward for Armstrong, to regain his credibility.

*Other books on this subject include What Matters Now by Gary Hamel and Derailed by Tim Irwin.

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