Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Kind of Future Leaders Are We Creating?

An article by Hannah Richardson, the BBC education reporter, published on 15th April this year, mentions how “two-thirds of UK children feel under pressure to cheat at sports because of a ‘win-at-all-costs’ culture on the playing fields, a survey suggests. A quarter of the children questioned for the survey thought team mates would cheat frequently if they could get away with it. 90 per cent of the 1,002 8 to 16-year-olds said their team-mates felt pressure to win while playing sport. More than a third said they felt no remorse at winning by cheating.”
In a similar article in the Guardian, Richard Garner highlighted that “only 16 per cent felt their team-mates would feel guilty if they won through cheating, while 37 per cent believed their team-mates would not care while 5 per cent said they would be happy or proud if they cheated.”
This should be very alarming to all of us and is unlikely to be unique to the United Kingdom. If ‘we’, through the media, sports personalities, celebrities and other means, are encouraging children to cheat in ‘sports’ then we’re teaching them to ‘cheat’ full-stop. It’s a state of mind, which defines individual and group values, where people, in this case children, re-define the ‘rules’ of competition and will use any means fair or foul to ‘win’.
As we ‘fight’ corruption in the workplace, we must also stop and ask what ‘values’ we are openly or tacitly accepting and thereby teaching the younger generation on a global level, as some of these will be the leaders of tomorrow. If they believe that cheating to any degree is okay - as long as you’re not caught, and is just part of the ‘new rules of competition’ - then we mustn’t be surprised when cheating takes place in other activities, which could be from the classroom to the business environment.
Richard Garner reports how “a separate survey of parents showed that nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) believed cheating by high-profile sportsmen and women had led their offspring to believe it was acceptable for them to follow suit. Opinion is divided, though, on whether cheating has got worse in school sports in recent years, with 34 per cent of parents saying it has got worse and 36 per cent that it has not.”
This survey in 2013 follows on from a similar survey in 2010, and by the look of it not much has changed. Back in 2010, Aidan Radnedge of the Metro reported that "72 per cent witnessed cheating in team sports. And 58 per cent of 8 to 16 year olds say they would break the rules in team games compared with 13 per cent playing individual sports. 54 per cent of 8 to 16 year olds say they witnessed bad sportsmanship in every game they play.
Encouragingly, 67 per cent said seeing a sportsman break the rules to win would not make them do the same. Seven in ten say they would describe a sportsman who played unfairly as a ‘cheat’, with just 4 per cent saying they would consider them ‘cool’.
Meanwhile more alarmingly, in the 2010 report, only half of parents believe it is their responsibility to deal with their child’s unfair play – which is, or was, simply crazy.
If the development of leadership qualities is part nature and part nurture then we better get the nurturing bit right if we want to develop solid, strong and effective leaders for our future generations, in and out of the business environment.
Garner, R. (2013). Win at all costs: most children admit to cheating at sport. The Independent. [On-line:]
Radnedge, A. (2010). Child sports players are 'happy to cheat to win'. The Metro. [On-line:]
Richardson, H. (2013). Pressure to win 'turns children into sports cheats. BBC News [On-line:]

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