Thursday, March 12, 2015

Brad Gushue – Leadership (Or Not) By Example

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. - Ray Kroc

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself. - Henry Ward Beecher

As a proud Newfoundlander who suddenly realized that he was in the same city as the Tim Horton’s Brier (the premier Canadian men’s curling tournament) this year and as a big fan of curling (thanks, Dad!), I had to go down and cheer on Brad Gushue and the team representing Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the draw against Alberta, I watched him make what he later said was the greatest shot in his career, a practically impossible shot that left us shouting until we were hoarse.

And I watched him come back to the Newfoundland and Labrador cheering section in the arena, wave and smile to us and joke with a fan as he snatched her phone from her in fun and took a selfie as she cuddled up beside him.

As I watched this, I thought, “This guy is alright.  He showed incredible coolness under pressure and then came back and honored those who cheered him on.”

But after he went on to lose in the playoffs, including the bronze medal game, my opinion of him changed.

It wasn’t because he lost and failed to bring home a medal.

It was the way he explained his loss.

In comments carried by the Calgary Herald (Gushue loses, then trashes Brier bronze-medal game), the CBC (Brier bronze game ‘dumbest’ in curling, says Brad Gushue) and VOCM (Gushue doesn’t regret remarks), he revealed a different side of himself.

In those articles, he makes reference to not really wanting to play the bronze medal game at all, explaining that he didn’t care about finishing it but he would have been fined had he not and that the game is merely a cash grab for Curling Canada.  The night before he played the game he said “We’ll play hard. I don’t know how hungover we’ll be. But we’ll play hard.’’

Had those comments and others been made in the heat of the moment and then subsequently recanted, it would have been one thing.  But after a couple of days of reflection, he stood by them and in doing so, sent a message to his team, his fans, his sponsors, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and most importantly, to the young people that Curling Canada is trying to attract as they strive to bring in fresh blood.  The message is this:

When things go your way, it’s all good.  When things don’t go your way or if you can’t finish first then whining or quitting outright is an option.

And this makes me wonder if he is the kind of leader Curling Canada or the people of Newfoundland and Labrador should be standing behind.

The definition of leadership

The definitions of leadership that have been written about since ancient times are broad, varied and plentiful but they usually center around themes of perseverance under adversity, saying the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons, at the right time, etc.

For those of us considered leaders in our respective spaces, we carry a burden of responsibility to make sure that we are cognizant of the impact of our words and actions on others.  Even when we see the need for change (and leaders always do), there is a way to bring that change into effect.

Telling young people that “if you don’t like what you see, then getting drunk the night before and putting in a lackluster effort is ok” is not the way that change is brought about.

It’s not the way we inspire and create the next generation of leaders either.

The Bottom Line

Gushue had this to say about his comments:

I don't mind people criticizing me for being outspoken. I think I have a pretty good stature in the game now that sometimes when I say stuff, people listen, and whether it's good or bad, or whether my opinions are right or wrong, they are my opinions.

I would posit the exact opposite, that his good stature in the game is the very reason he needs to deliver his concerns in a more effective way, to bring about change if necessary and to establish a role model for young people when it comes to effecting change.

And for all of the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians standing by his comments and his attitude of defeatism (that if I’m not going to win first prize then I don’t want to win anything), maybe they will appreciate the diminishing effect that this support is having on the leaders of tomorrow – their own children.  Stop defending the actions of someone who doesn’t set a good example – it doesn’t reflect well on you.

Too many people would rather complain about anything rather than call upon one of their own, as talented as he is, to be a better representative of the great province that he represents and to be a better role model for future generations from that province.

Otherwise, if Newfoundland and Labrador should win their bid for the 2017 Brier and should Gushue find himself in the bronze medal game again, we can send another defeatist message to young people by soliciting his thoughts from some establishment on George Street the night before.

A strong leader constantly asks themselves questions such as these when faced with adversity and the need to effect change:

    • What should I do?
    • Where should I go?
    • What should I say?
    • To whom should I say it?

How these questions are asked and answered speaks volumes to everyone else, especially the leaders of tomorrow.

How do you answer these questions when times are difficult or when things don’t go your way?

Why does it matter?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


PS I saw a quote on VOCM where a lady said that her child noted that winning a bronze was better than winning a silver.  When she asked him what he meant by this, he said “You have to lose to win a silver but you have win to win a bronze”.  Remarkable insight from a young person.  Perhaps Brad Gushue could learn a lesson from this young person.

Examples of leadership such as demonstrated by Brad Gushue bring to mind concerns I have over the political leadership in the Province.  Ahhhhh … that’s a subject for another day. Smile

In the meantime, if your response to me is merely to whine against my opinion, don’t bother writing me.  You can use your energy to support Gushue’s whining instead. Smile

Addendum – A Study In Contrasts - April 5, 2015

The winner of the tournament mentioned in this blog post went on to the World Curling Championships as Team Canada and finished third today.  A member of Team Canada said this about their finish:

"We wanted to be playing (for gold) this afternoon so it still stings from last night. But you don't want to go home empty-handed. Last year, we stood out there at the closing ceremonies while everybody else walked up on the podium. That's the biggest kick in the head there is.  We found a way and we medalled and we can be proud of that."

This is a real leader, gracious in victory and defeat.

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