Boston to Bill Maher: A Simple Apology Gets You off the Hook

A simple apology, done with meaning and quickly — like today — gets comic/satirist/political commentator/HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher out of a jam for his rather thoughtless comments last Friday about the Boston Marathon bombings.

You’ve likely heard by now how Maher, on his HBO talk show “Real Time,” seemed to minimize the physical and emotional toll last April’s bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon had on the region.

Perhaps it’s just because he doesn’t live here, but Maher completely failed to grasp how the Boston Red Sox and the team’s unlikely and successful march to and through the World Series helped to pick up a grieving region and accelerate the healing process.

When a few Red Sox players placed the World Series trophy on the Boston Marathon finish line during the team’s victory parade a few of weeks ago, it was if the region’s stages of grief and suffering had come full circle.

But Maher doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he said that while the day of the bombings was a “bad day, three people died, that’s terrible.  More were maimed <Bill, it was actually 264 maimed>, that’s horrible, but unfortunately that happens every day, in car accidents and everything else.  I mean, your city was not leveled by Godzilla.”

He’s been criticized for his comments by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, by a number of newspapers (here’s a taste of what the far right is saying), and on Twitter by even the most fervent of Boston fans, like this one..

Jessica Britt ‏@jmacbritt14 Nov

@billmaher, love you, but disappointed by boston marathon comments. Parade route was where bombs were, meant a lot to our city…..

So Bill Maher gets paid to be controversial, like a shock jock.  On this particular issue, though, he overstepped the bounds of decency.  But I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt on his miscue — that he didn’t mean what he said and that he regrets it.

Tonight at 10 p.m. ET, Maher is on live TV again.

It’s Maher’s chance to redeem himself. A simply apology will do.

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David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s Timeless Leadership Lessons

COV_BigPapi(5)From the Boston Globe to USA Today to SportingNews.com, writers across the country are paying tribute to David “Big Papi” Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox (my home town team) for his on-the-field heroics.  At age 37, Big Papi is tearing up the MLB’s best pitchers and as one scribe reports, is “turning back the clock.”  And never at a loss for words, the Sox slugger responds with just the right hint of humility: “I’m the dinosaur here.”

That’s just Big Papi being Big Papi.

The fact of the matter is that Ortiz is anything but a dinosaur.  He’s a player a few scouts said was on the decline just a couple of years ago.  But he’s also a player who since then has essentially reinvented himself by making the training room his off-season home, by burning off his love of the good life by running laps in the park, and by turning to a healthier diet … and then by letting his bat do the talking on the field.

This week, Ortiz is leading his team to (hopefully) its third World Series championship in 10 years. But it’s not only his behavior on the field that has earned him leadership status. It’s also what he says and does off the field, whether it be in the club house with his teammates, in the training room building strength, in front of the cameras talking to fans after a game, or his off-camera work with charities, that make him a role model for corporate leaders.

Here are four Big Papi traits execs sitting in mahogany row can learn from:

Lead by example.  Big Papi doesn’t just talk about wanting to win.  He properly prepares and rehearses to flawlessly execute his plan.  He works harder than most to be the very best at his job and when he sees his skills beginning to deteriorate, he goes back to drawing board (the batting cage in his case).  He never asks his teammates to work harder than he’s willing to.  He simply sets the bar and then hurdles it.  Simple.

Leaders as change agents who inspire.    First a leader has to be trusted by his/her employees (or team).  It’s the same with customers. Customers trust people and not necessarily companies.  It’s only when trust is established that a leader can become a change agent.  Remember how the Red Sox responded in game four of the World Series following Big Papi’s inspirational dugout pep talk mid-game?  “David Ortiz rallied us together,” said teammate Johnny Gomes following the Red Sox win.

Strong leaders choose their words carefully.  Great leaders understand the power of their words and their tone.  A CEO addressing a struggling organization at a company meeting can galvanize or demoralize the troops.  A confident “we will overcome these challenges together and here’s the plan” delivery always trumps a punitive one.  Last April 20, on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombings, Big Papi “unofficially” reclaimed the City of Boston for its residents with his famous Boston Strong speech at Fenway Park. He delivered the right words with the right tone at just the right time.

Great leaders wear their passion on the outside for all to see.  Steve Jobs.  Tony Hsieh.  Jeff BezosRichard Branson.  CEOs known for their passion.  Name a professional baseball player who loves (and has as much fun) what he does as much as David Ortiz?  His passion, like that of Jobs and others, is absolutely contagious.

Any ideas for other Ortiz leadership traits that corporate leaders should emulate?

Go Sox!