We are watching the disintegration of a reputation right before our very eyes. Joe Paterno, the molder of young men and the shaper of great football teams, is the latest example of someone who turned away from responsibility instead of turning in someone to the authorities.
There is no excuse for any of us who witness a wrongdoing making it worse by doing nothing about it. Simply moving the problem up the food chain as Paterno did is not enough. In this case, wrongdoing is not near a strong enough description of what is unraveling at Penn State. The extent of the cover-up that occurred in the PSU situation rivals Watergate. Simply put, no one with any authority took any responsibility for what was happening to those innocent children. It's difficult to believe this could happen. But it did.
When we talk with clients about crisis management, one of the cardinal rules we discuss is the necessity to take responsibility when things go wrong. Good things happen when we take responsibility for our actions or for the actions of others in our companies or organizations. The problem will be resolved faster and the hit to the organization's reputation is minimized.
Neither of these will happen in that place now inappropriately named Happy Valley. And Joe Paterno becomes the latest person to vividly demonstrate why taking responsibility is all that matters when it comes to having a great reputation.