Too often, bad leaders looking for the easy way out, use the euphemism, “it’s a business decision” to attempt to rationalize their lack of leadership
Today I heard journalists explain why the NFL doesn’t want to take actions to reduce or eliminate concussions and other serious health issues in football because “it’s a business”. Like protecting the health and safety of the players so they could play more, play better and have longer careers wouldn’t be good for business. The NHL has the same problem. As odd as it sounds, the easy decision for the leadership of both leagues is to maintain the status quo, hide behind history and tradition and “the will of our fans” and do nothing. And yes that would indeed be a “business decision”. But so would a decision to take extraordinary measures to protect their product (the players) as much as possible. Does anyone believe it was good for business to have Sidney Crosby out of the lineup for a year? Is it good for business to have former players’ suicides linked to brain damage which was possibly a result of concussions from playing. I know the causal link hasn’t been established, but does it matter to the business? Isn’t the possibility enough to prompt action?
Every decision made by a business, technically, is a business decision. The question is, does the decision support the values and strategic priorities of the business. The decisions made by the short-sighted leadership of the NFL and NHL are no more or less “business decisions” than the decision made by Steve Jobs to enter the already saturated and extremely competitive smart phone market with the iPhone. The difference is that one leader had the courage to look at how an existing, high demand product could be made better. He was willing to make a hard, risk-filled business decision because it was consistent with what he believed in, and he had the vision to see how success would benefit the business. There were many experts saying it was a bad business decision. Many of those experts are now chastising the competition for not being more like Apple.
It is time for business leaders to stop taking the low road and rationalizing it to their employees, their shareholders and the public as being “a business decision”. Taking the high road, with it’s greater challenges, greater benefits and principled foundation is just as much a “business decision”. And it’s a better one.
Oh, and the NFL and NHL will eventually make the “business decision” to deal with the concussion problem, but not because of their vision or strong leadership. It will be because of pressure from lawsuits and possibly government regulation. And that truly, is a shame.