The beleaguered president of the world’s soccer governing body has now resigned his post amid multiple arrests and criminal charges against senior FIFA officials on corruption charges. Why, after defending himself for more than a week and successfully winning re-election to FIFA’s top job, would he step down?
The rumors swirling around FIFA make it very difficult to tell, but there is every indication that the arrests made in the last week of May are only the beginning of an international law enforcement sweep of the body that could very well end up with charges against Blatter himself.
This week, Interpol confirmed that it has issued warrants for six additional FIFA officials on corruption, racketeering and conspiracy charges. These further pending arrests were accompanied by news the FBI is formally investigating Blatter.
Based on all these events, it’s clear that FIFA is an organization that is rotten to the core.
From a leadership perspective, Blatter’s long and checkered 17-year history with FIFA makes for an interesting study in ego, uncontrolled power and greed. As is his stark refusal to step down as president when senior members of his team were being arrested.
Yet even when he finally decided to quit, Blatter was resolute that he was only stepping down because the football community had lost faith in him; not because he was involved in the corruption.
“FIFA needs profound restructuring,” Blatter said in his speech. “I decided to stand again to be elected because I was convinced it was the best option for football. Although the members of FIFA gave me a new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everyone in the world.”
It was only on his way out that he claimed to have recognized the organization that he led, needed restructuring. Could he really have been leading an organization that was rotten to the core and not have noticed?
Let’s take this one step further. What if we gave him the benefit of the doubt? What if we entertained for a moment, that in fact Blatter had nothing to do with the rampant corruption in FIFA? Even then, his story is still one of failed leadership.
In my opinion, Blatter has no reasonable, believable excuse for not knowing about the money, influence peddling and rampant greed that is at the root of FIFA’s extensive corruption. As details of each individual arrest come out, we can see pretty clearly that there really is no chance that any leader could claim ignorance. That’s not real leadership.
As leaders, we all have a responsibility to keep tabs on the ethical, moral implications of everything our organizations do. If you find out that your organization is rotten to its core, you have an obligation to fix things, and fix them fast. If you don’t know your organization is rotten, then you should resign for being so clueless.
It’s not possible for any one leader to keep tabs on everyone in a large organization like FIFA. However, when you have such widespread problems like it has had for years, no leader can claim to be naïve or untouched.
In Blatter’s case, it seems reasonably obvious that he will be implicated in some way in the rampant corruption that infected FIFA. And then his claim of ignorance will be ignored and his failure of leadership will be put in the spotlight.
There’s an important lesson here for all of us in leadership roles. If you ever find yourself leading an organization that is rotten to its core, you must step up and do what is right.
This week’s gut check asks: are you leading a company that is rotten to its core? And what are you doing about it?
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About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro