“Thoroughly confused. Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up to him.” — Victor Cruz (@TeamVic) July 13, 2013 10:08 PM
Usually, it’s Kate leveraging examples from the world of sports to make her points, but this week I must tread into her realm. In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict — which was handed down just before 10 PM on July 13 — many, many people jumped on Twitter to, essentially, publish to the universe and for all time their immediate reactions.
I say “for all time” because, as we will see, when it comes to the Internet, there is no delete. If you are a celebrity or any kind of public figure, folks are watching your Tweets at all hours of the day and night, ready to snap a screen shot the second they see something interesting. Of course, you don’t have to be a celebrity for this, you can get caught by somebody seeing what you soon realize to be the wrong Tweet at the wrong time, and that’s it. You’re finished.
By the next afternoon, Cruz — a great slot receiver who the NY Giants have just signed to a long-term deal — had deleted his Tweet (for what it’s worth) and begun his multiple rounds (1 & 2) of apologies.
- “My tweet last night was my initial interpretation of the reaction I was reading on twitter. I immediately realized my tweet was a mistake and I apologize, that’s why I deleted it. I believe conversation not confrontation leads to change and progress.”
- “I took it back because I understand how things can be taken. There are a lot of children that follow me, a lot of kids that follow me, and I don’t want them to think I’m trying to incite violence on anyone. That’s not what I’m here for. That’s not what my intent was — or is — at all.”
Now those are good apologies, as far as apologies go, but from a “Victor Cruz brand” point of view, damage has been done. Football fans, you see, love a hard worker who keeps his nose clean and his mouth closed. Perhaps the iconic example from our neck of the woods is 1980’s NY Giants Star Mark Bavaro, a man who was known for being tough as nails and quiet as the Sphinx. What was so disconcerting about the Cruz statement is that it made those who thought he was Bavaro-esque think instead of Plaxico Burress. I’m sure Kate, who had sung Cruz’s praises in her column, was as disappointed as anyone.
His unfortunate Tweet, and the many others like it that were quickly deleted and, if detected, disavowed, made me think how the general dynamic of Tweeting is quite at odds with most sound principles of leadership. Now, before I get bombarded with Tweets on this, let me clarify. Anything can be done correctly and any tool can be used wisely, but the general idea behind Twitter is to quickly communicate a thought, and that thought is usually one arrived at even faster than it is typed. This is NOT how leaders should function in general or communicate in particular.
Leaders need to realize that their words are never taken lightly, for everyone is trying to get in sync with where they think the leader is going, they are looking to read the tea leaves. That means leaders had better be very careful with their pronouncements, take time to come to them, and mean what they say. And even if one has arrived at a serious thought, I do not think Twitter is the forum in which to deliver it, because the medium itself discounts the message. Leaders who, in fact, embrace Twitter’s spout-off environment do so at their own peril. It’s so easy to type out 140 characters and hit enter, but impossible to take it back.
So, in my humble opinion, leave the Tweeting to others, or relegate it to personal things on your personal account. Just like a diabetic should probably avoid candy shops because the temptation to err is too great, so leaders with strong opinions should probably stay off Twitter. I have a feeling Bavaro would agree.