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Sepp Blatter shows you how not to lead

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

To lead with integrity, study Sepp Blatter’s 17-year run as president of FIFA—and do the opposite. Blatter, 79, announced his resignation from inter­national soccer’s governing body in June after years of fending off allega­­tions of corruption.

Even when Swiss police arrested ­Blatter’s own lieutenants after an extensive investigation, he still clung to power. Only after the U.S. government indicted 14 FIFA officials for bribery and money laundering did Blatter agree to step down.

How did Blatter survive unending scandals during his presidency? For starters, he solidified his power by diluting the influence of big Euro­­pean nations.

Because FIFA allows every member country (regardless of size) an equal vote to choose the World Cup’s host, nations such as Togo and Dominica exert as much influence as Germany and Brazil. Blatter worked the system by recruiting more small countries such as Malta; these newcomers returned the favor by showing allegiance to him.

Blatter’s credibility crumbled as scandals rocked FIFA. Instead of opening FIFA’s books to outside auditors as reports of bribes spread, he fought transparency every step of the way.

Meanwhile, he paid lip service to doing the right thing without following through. In 2003, for example, Blatter said, “Neither FIFA nor its president have anything to hide, nor do they wish to.”

It’s always a red flag when leaders refer to themselves in the third person. Blatter’s imperiousness proved an early indicator of his unethical behavior.

To provide sound leadership, show accountability. Unlike Blatter, welcome public scrutiny and act with transparency. Cooperate with outside critics and let them conduct reasonable investigations, so that they can conclude for themselves that you’re above reproach.  

— Adapted from “Evil but Effective,” Bill Saporito, www.inc.com.

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