This week, NBC’s Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was suspended without pay for six months for misrepresenting a military incident that occurred when he was reporting overseas. He reported, and confirmed in other venues on multiple occasions, that he was part of a convoy of military helicopters forced to land in the desert of Iraq in 2003. He elaborated in detail that the helicopter in which he had been a passenger was hit by enemy fire and was forced down. Veterans from the incident challenged his recollections and Mr. Williams recanted the story earlier this week. He then voluntarily took a leave of absence for a few days prior to the decision from NBC regarding his suspension.
In a memo to her staff explaining the suspension, NBC News President Deborah Turness wrote, “As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.”
Whether or not you believe the suspension was with merit or that his actions constituted misconduct, the bottom line is that he has lost the trust of those whom he serves.
His journalistic career currently spans thirty-four years, twenty-two of which are with NBC. It is hard to believe that his entire career and professional reputation could be subject to a misrepresentation in a single story (though told a number of times). However, that is all it takes to lose your integrity.
Since my entire knowledge of how a news room operates is derived from watching the HBO television series Newsroom, I am not going to predict whether Brian Williams will return as anchor of Nightly News after his suspension is completed. However, I do know that leaders of governmental organizations and news rooms have something in common – if you lose the trust of those you serve, you cannot be an effective leader (Tweet This).
While the concept of losing the trust of your organization and/or you community seems like something that could never happen, it can happen with one mistake, small or large. Each day, you need to ensure that as the leader of the organization you are being clear and truthful – the whole truth – in your communication. Trust takes good connections upon good connections to build, but only one bad connection to erode all of the good.
Continue to build the trust of those you serve – one good, honest connection at a time (Tweet This).
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