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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Friday, September 19, 2003

By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner of Greenville Cable 7

Dysfunctional leadership nets misery


The hot new book for people in business is Jim Collins’ Good to Great, a book about how to carry a businesses or organization to a higher level of productivity. In Good to Great, Collins investigates those companies that have made the leap. In all cases, leadership has been the key to success for those that have achieved greatness, while a lack of leadership and/or poor management have been decisive for those that have not.

A lot has been said about what has happened to East Carolina University and its athletic programs in the last two years. ECU has certainly taken a leap, but not from good to great.

Collins says that great leaders (he calls them Level 5 leaders) demonstrate a compelling modesty; shunning public adulation; never boastful. They channel ambition into the organization, not the self; and set up successors for even greater achievement in the next generation. This sounds like anything but what has happened in Greenville in our recent past.

ECU Coach John Thompson has a difficult job ahead. Rebuilding the program will take great time and patience. Unfortunately, he will have to do it during the rockiest of times in the history of our university.

Many have asked how things could get so bad so fast? Did the previous coaching staff stop recruiting? Was there a subversive effort underway to take the program down? Did people stop caring?

Some forget that players brought into the program in recent years like Paul Troth and Vonta Leach were among the most highly recruited players in ECU history. The Pirates won recruiting battles for both of these young men as well as for many others on the roster today. People close enough saw the effort going into the football program at a high level each year.

What happened at ECU should never have taken place. An undermining of authority. A lack of communication. Management that was less than candid on a daily basis. Ultimately, a showdown in which there was chosen one winner and one loser. What appears to be bad leadership at many levels. There were many warning signs.

To their credit, there were those in the community and our Board of Trustees who saw the growing problems and tried to act early on. Most in a position to help, however, ignored the signs and allowed the program to swirl downward.

The result is a program which is fighting for survival on and off the field at absolutely the most critical time in its history. Conference USA will most likely break up in upcoming months and our university’s athletic programs are not currently positioned to move forward. Our program now finds itself with an interim director of athletics and an interim chancellor.

What has been learned from this unfortunate debacle should be evident to those who have funded the incredible growth of the program in recent years. We should remember that this is our university. Administrators come and administrators go.

We must demand close oversight from our Board of Trustees. Currently there is not one Pitt County resident sitting on the board; another indication that much of the information being received by the board is most likely coming exclusively from the administration itself.

The leadership deficit that has occurred has dealt ECU a serious blow derailing our aspiration for greatness. Hopefully, the lessons learned will have some affect on the future. There is much at stake for all of us.

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02/23/2007 10:12:22 AM


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