Penn State will “not only do what is required under the law, we will do what is right” according to the interim president. Leaders and people in positions of leadership obviously have to work within the law, but we see that they also have to adhere to a higher standard. Joe Paterno thought he was doing the right thing. He told his superior about the suspected abuse. “Running it up the flag pole” may have been his legal obligation, but according to the court of public opinion, he had a much greater duty and moral obligation. In an interview with Sally Jenkins from The Washington Post, Paterno explains why he handled it the way he did.
“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” Paterno told Jenkins. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did.”
I think my perspective on this story is different than it would have been a few years ago, before I became a father. I think people in a position of great authority have to apply the “what if this were my kid” test to these types of situations. Leaders have to think like a leader and a parent. At the end of the day, for me, the actions I would take as a father have to override what I think is best for your organization. I think you have to apply that filter to your judgment because that is the lens the public is going to see the situation through.