What Leaders can Learn from Lance Armstrong about Legacy

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I’m a sports fan. I love football, but I enjoy just about any sport. Especially sports stories. Instead of reading politics in the morning, I turn to NBC Sports Talk and Bleacher report as my apps of choice.

Because of that, I read the accusations over the years about Lance Armstrong. Did he dope? Was he really that incredible to be the only cyclist who didn’t dope?

Last week, as the saga of his life and doping were on display in a 2 part interview with Oprah, it was sad to watch. I had known for months that he had in fact cheated, but watching and reading the interview were sad to watch.

Here are some things for leaders to learn from Lance:

  1. Who you really are eventually comes out. Numbers 32:23 says, “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.” While this can very easily be used to guilt people into things and carry the idea that God will smite you in the future for something you did 20 years ago, which I don’t think is the point. The reality of this verse and our lives is that eventually, everything comes out. You can only hide something for so long. Every moment carries the risk of someone new finding out, the circling of knowledge enlarging. If who you are in front of people, on stage is not who you are at home, eventually, it will be found out. For Lance, he was so defiant in his defense that he didn’t cheat, it made people want to see him fail. 
  2. Your enemies will have the determination you do. Which leads to the second thing.Your critics will take on the personality of their adversary. For Lance, he was defiant in his defense, so his critics, those who charged him with cheating were just as defiant. I’m not sure if they would’ve gone away if he wasn’t so defensive, but he kept it going by how adamant he was. The same is true with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
  3. Every action matters. What came out of the interview was who Lance is. He didn’t hide that, and you can’t hide that. Lance is strong willed, determined and according to many people he has sued or interacted with, “a jerk.” How you treat the smallest people in your organization, the person who is of little significance to you or the mission matters. How available you are to people, how you treat them, it all matters. It all adds up. It all goes into how you are remembered and known. That’s why 1 Timothy 3:7 says an elder in a church must be thought well of by outsiders. Too many pastors seem to find enjoyment in being defiant and a mark of how gospel centered they are by how much criticism they take from outsiders. Yes, you may disagree theologically with outsiders, but you can still show them love and grace.
  4. It takes one choice to change it all. Everything ends. The momentum you have right now will wane at some point. Your popularity will cease. At some point, the wise and foolish, the famous and the unknown all die. How great you think of yourself right now, will not last. It can be taken in a moment, in the wake of one decision. Every time I hear about another pastor who has fallen out of ministry for sleeping with someone he isn’t married to, running off with money that isn’t his or something else, my heart breaks. It also scares me because I know that in my sinfulness, I am one choice away from wrecking my life. Everyone is. One small choice, one moment of letting our guard down in a situation quickly can become two and then three to the point we no longer have our boundaries.
  5. When you are caught, brokenness is the answer. When you are caught in something, be honest. Watching Lance and now the ongoing saga with Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, I’m reminded that brokenness is the answer. Be honest, be real. Admit what you did. Every time you lie, every time you excuse a behavior because everyone did it simply shows you don’t get it and that you aren’t sorry.

Question for the readers: What did you learn about leadership and legacy from Lance Armstrong?

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