We are going to hear a lot about Richie Incognito over the next couple of weeks. We are going to hear about how he is a bully, a racist, a bigot, an alcoholic, a sexist pig, and an extortionist. We will hear how he acted alone, how it was all just a misunderstanding, and numerous other diversion tactics to limit the Miami Dolphin’s and the NFL’s liability. This is indeed a very complex story with many layers to it, and plenty of people to point the finger at.
There is the Dolphin’s GM, Jeff Ireland who has a history of making people feel uncomfortable and using his power to intimidate others. For instance, asking Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute or suggesting to Martin’s agent to have Jonathan “punch Richie”.
There is Dolphin’s Head Coach Joe Philbin and his lack of awareness as to the dynamics of his team.
There are the rest of the Dolphin’s coaching staff who encouraged hazing in an effort to toughen up certain players.
There are Richie’s teammates who acted as bystanders rather than UPstanders when they decided not to intervene and let him know that the Dolphin organization was above this behavior.
There are the coaches at his high school that encouraged his dirty play, fueled by vengeance, because he was called “lardass” earlier in life.
There are Richie’s parents who clearly shared different philosophies on how to help Richie deal with his anger and hold him accountable for his bullying behavior as an adolescent.
And of course, there is Richie…who will finally be held accountable for his egregious behavior.
As the NFL scrambles to clean up this mess after on the heels of National Bully Prevention Month, (hazing has been a part of NFL culture for decades) the rest of us should pay close attention and digest the fact that this disgusting and poisonous behavior is not just a NFL problem, it is a societal problem.
We can easily look through every aspect of life and find people who have bullied, manipulated, lied, and cheated their way to success by leveraging a unique talent or skill. There are plenty of charismatic bullies in the world of education, politics, business, and elsewhere that engage in kiss up/kick down methods that benefits their own agenda.
Those who stand for nothing fall for anything
Our children need to know about Jonathan Martin and the strength he displayed by standing up to Richie Incognito when nobody else would.
Jonathan had to weigh his football career against his character and well being. It was clear that the Miami Dolphins were comfortable with the bullying and racist behavior masked as a rite of passage to join their paternity.
Jonathan had witnessed enough to know that joining that dysfunctional paternity did not align with his life’s task. The path of least resistance would have been to not do anything like so many of the Dolphins did. The Dolphins were concerned that this Stanford educated professional athlete was “soft” and hoped this treatment would “toughen him up”. Well, they found out how “tough” he was.
What is ironic is that athletes often speak of creating the optimal conditions to deliver an “in the zone” performance. Artists, writers, and innovators work towards developing a fluid and flexible mind to achieve a “creative flow” where they can capture insights and create new mental connections. Numerous studies have proven that these elevated mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual states are stifled by fear.
We live in very demanding times faced with complex global problems, we need to inspire more leaders like Jonathan Martin, driven to protect the collective brilliance of our communities. People like Richie Incognito and Jeff Ireland are brilliance killers who stifle other people’s creative expression and impede social progress.
Students all across the country are hurting and failing to develop their cognitive abilities because our society lacks civility.
Organizations are losing their ability to innovate and run a profitable business because our society lacks civility.
Our political system is broken because our society lacks civility.
Building a Culture of Inner, Outer, & Other
Leaders either inspire a culture of UPstanders or allow people to be bystanders.
If energy flows where attention goes, then building awareness in our young people should be as important as the 3 R’s.
In order to prevent bullying behavior, every classroom, boardroom, and locker room needs leaders equipped with the tools to be able to recognize, respond, and restore safe and inclusive conditions when damaging conduct occurs. That takes deliberate and intentional focus.
In Daniel Goleman’s book entitled Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence he consolidates research, which proves that the most effective and influential leaders have learned to develop and balance their “Triple Focus”.
Inner focus = Self Awareness
Other = Empathy and Perspective Taking
Outer = Aware of their environment
As a father of four young children, I do not want my children growing up in a world where we focus on not being a bully; I want my kids to acquire the tools that will allow them the ability to establish meaningful connections, educe greatness out of themselves and others, and solve the ridiculous amount of global problems they are destined to face.
When we hear stories such as this, we must not be so quick to judge and place blame, that is wasted energy. We should take pause, reflect, and ask ourselves:
Which behaviors perpetuate a culture lacking in civility?
Are we educing or stifling brilliance within our communities?
Are there any future Richie Incognito’s within our circle of influence that we can equip to live a more fulfilled life?”
We were put here for one another and our actions influence entire communities.
Jonathan Martin responded to this situation in a manner that demonstrates that he cares for those around him, has empathy for Richie, and values the person he is meant to be.
I hope my children show similar strength if they ever have to face a charismatic and abusive bully like Mr. Incognito.
I want them to know that reaching out to others is a formula for success, it is not an admission of weakness. I hope they feel a strong sense of connection to their community because ultimately, we need one another to bounce back from adversity and hardship.