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Mike Gundy - New HR/Anger Management Project or Passionate Leader?

Anger is a funny thing - a word here, a twist there, and people are speed dialing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) line on your behalf.  Add some references and context, and you're a passionate, "fire in the belly" leader.  Which one is Mike Gundy?  The Oklahoma State coach refused to take questions after Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory against Texas Tech on Saturday, instead expressing outrage at a newspaper column that suggested a quarterback's demotion was a result of his attitude more than his ineffective play.

Take a look and make the determination yourself:

So which is it?   Is Gundy a candidate for an Anger Management intervention, or is he a leader to be praised for standing up for his team?

Couple of side notes for your consideration as well.  You can take a look at the column that provoked this response here.  Additionally, Gundy has been taking heat this week since his comments were directed at a woman, causing some to question whether his response would have been as strong if he was dealing with a male journalist.  Either way, you can bet his team is circling the wagons and loving the passionate defense of a "direct report".

Of course, in athletics you can lash out at external individuals in defense of your team and be a hero.  Harder to pull off in corporate America, where other departments, customers and even vendors are partners you have to work with to get things done moving forward.

I'm tagging Steve at All Things Workplace, Wally at 3-Star Leadership and Michael Moore at PA Employment Lawyer for their thoughts.  What about it guys, is Gundy a true leader or EAP poster child?


Steve Roesler

Hi, Kris,

I had a look at the video and read the newspaper article. Am "in motion" and won't get a chance to do a full blown post, but please feel free to use this if it will add to the conversation.

Here is my response and I'm sticking to it:

1. The coach was genuinely angry, stuck to explaining the cause, and even expressed what could/should be done differently and why.

Not a candidate for anger management. Strong candidate for being a leader who sticks up for his people when they've been ambushed by conjecture.

2. As background, my graduate degree is in PR and Journalism.

Had I submitted that article as a class project I might have been denied the degree. It violates every tenet of ethical, factual reporting. The only verifiable facts that I noticed after one reading were:

a. He didn't play
b. His mom fed him chicken

Everything else was designed to create a "feeling" based on "ooh, what could this mean?" sensation-oriented conjecture and a series of supermarket tabloid one-liners.

3. The gender of the writer is irrelevant. The coach has no doubt held pre- and post-game conferences and interviews with male and female media reps. I've not researched his history, but there is no indication so far that he has any predisposition--one way or another--toward the gender of reporters.

Since we're ultimately talking leadership here, then the newspaper editor is even more responsible than the reporter. The editor's job is to ensure the validity of questionable "facts", request a re-write, or even do a re-write.

Leadership score:

Coach: 1

Newspaper: 0

Michael Moore

The answer depends on whether this was a “rant” or a “rant and rave”. A “rant” is defined as “a very loud, aggressive, or bombastic speech that is usually long and repetitive” as opposed to a “rant and rave” which is “to speak at length in a wildly irrational, angry and agitated fashion.” I think the addition of the “rave” gets you an EAP referral. It’s the difference between a yellow and red card.

What distinguishes a rant from a rant and rave? It’s like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said when defining obscenity “I know it when I see it.” Rants have a purpose, context and maintain control. Rants and Raves don’t plus they tend to turn personal. It’s the difference between Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby Knight.

Anyone who has ever sat in the locker room after a particularly poor first half performance knows that every good coach must have a rant. Coaches are expected to rant, but not too frequently least it lose its power. The rant has the purpose of turning the team around and the context of competition. It usually doesn’t attack a particular player.

Business leaders aren’t expected to rant because it’s too emotional. However, good leaders could probably benefit from using a rant to make it emotional at the right time, for the right reason. Would anyone who sits in a sales meeting after a particularly disastrous first quarter expect a rant? If the rant had a purpose and a context, it might just work. However, a business rant crosses the line when it becomes personal. It’s like Don Lucchesi said, “It’s not personal. It’s business.” If the rant becomes personal, it becomes a threat. If it becomes a threat, welcome to the EAP office.

On its face, I would consider Coach Grudy’s actions to be no more than a rant, but not a particularly good one. However, he may have crossed the line, if he was targeting an unnamed reporter, because then it is personal.

Frank Roche

I thought that guy was an unmitigated jerk. Since when do people get to go off like that? Just because he's a sports coach we give him a pass?

Sports coaches think people should kiss their a**es. They're used to being bullies and the big men on campus, and it shows when putzes like Grundy do that sort of stuff. At a minimum he should apologize...if I were an AD he'd be doing that or getting fired. You can be a good coach and not be a jerk. Really, you can.

Wally Bock

I've had a look at the video and the column. It's pretty awful. Steve's comments nailed it pretty well.

But the rant (Michael's got that one right)? Well I don't think I'd send coach off for anger management, but I think he might benefit from a timeout and some communications skills training.

One thing about being a leader is that the people you lead take their cues from how you act. Gundy is undisciplined, loud, and abusive. He calls people and their work "garbage." Is that a good example?

If he wanted to take on the newspaper columnist, he could have done that by outlining her points and then refuting them. He didn't do that, He says that "three fourths of this is inaccurate" but doesn't tell us what except for two points where he says "that's not true" but doesn't tell us any more. He tells us that it's "fiction" but doesn't tell us why.

Instead, he resorts to a form of the ad hominem argument, attacking the person and not the argument. I don't know if the person writing the column has children. Gundy says "she couldn't."

He's not just defending his player. He's also defending his decisions about who should start.

Gundy is a leader because he's in a leadership position which means that people look to what he says and does as a guide for behavior. Is he a good leader? I don't think so. He says he's defending his player, but he's also defending himself. He's ranting against someone who's not there to respond. He's calling people and their work "garbage."

I wouldn't want him leading a team I care about and I sure wouldn't want him coaching my grandsons. What kind of language do you think he might be using in the locker room? What kind of example is he setting?

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