Unintended Impact & Irresponsibility

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Let me begin with three important words that need to be said, “I apologize deeply.”

Today, I am truly stepping into walking the talk of what I share, teach and train in my world. Let me set some context:

Yesterday I sent out a newsletter with a tribute to Kobe Bryant, underlining specifically his contribution and his character as a basketball player, Dad, business owner, leader and positive contributor to society.

Within moments of sending, a handful of people responded (some I personally knew, some I did not) to remind me that Kobe was accused of sexually assaulting women in his earlier career. To those that contacted me: Thank you for taking the time, having the courage and taking a stand for something that is crucially important and needs major attention in our world. His behavior was/is not okay. Thank you for waking me up to this important topic and for having me look deeper into my responsibility as a voice of leadership in my world. Yikes… the learning is huge.

Sometimes we create “unintended impact” (this is a leadership concept from CTI – Co-Active Training Institute). This is when you create an impact that you did not mean to have; yet it happens regardless.

And this is exactly what happened to me.

I teach that the fastest recovery tool when this happens is to not defend or justify in any way, but rather lean in to the impact on others and take responsibility for this impact.

And so this is what I am doing today.

I deeply apologize for how this may have felt disrespectful, dismissive or hurtful. Chuck and I are feeling remorse today as we be with the impact of our newsletter. If this has caused any separation with us and our work, I welcome a personal one on one conversation in service of creating more connection and even deeper leadership learning together.

I want our world to be better at connection… and it begins with me.

My own ignorance allowed this to happen.

It was and is completely irresponsible for me to underline Kobe’s character without mentioning this shadow and tragic part of his life.

In my haste to offer some thoughts about the leadership and role modeling this man showed us, I completely blanked on this part of his story. And that is NOT OK WITH ME.

Why I forgot about this is a rich place for me to look, which I will be doing with my great Jungian mentor. There are shadow places in me that I know have me not acknowledge the shadow places in others. Please know that I am not justifying my impact with my Kobe tribute. Instead, I’m working today and moving forward to minimize my “unintended impacts” across the board.

I am open, willing and eager to be pointed, trained, taught and led into new territories of understanding my leadership impact. I have shadow and blind spots that need light. I dare say leadership development is an evolutionary process with moments of “revolutionary learning.”

Last night, a peer sent me this quote from a very recent Time magazine article. Sadly, I had not seen this:

“It is irresponsible to excuse or gloss over Bryant’s treatment of this woman or his complicity in a legal strategy that upended her life. But it is also reductive to focus only on this behavior when reflecting on his life and death.”

Standing strong matters. And all perspectives matter. Thank you for growing me, pointing me and having me look deeper into my own personal leadership.

I truly hope you feel my heart in these words.
With deep compassion,



  • Lynn Young Reply

    I honor your openness, vulnerability and courage, Rick. These are examples of your own character. Your allowing feedback to come in. Your not making yourself wrong—-but better. That’s what we all can do. Modeling what it means to make a mistake, and then own it. I don’t know the whole of Kobe’s story (none of us know that for anyone else–or even ourselves for that matter)—but it strikes me that the part of Kobe’s life you were holding up as character likely was born from his own sexual assualt/experience/mistake, and learning, and growing and becoming. That’s all I can ask of anyone. Me, Kobe, you. Be gentle with yourself while you look powerfully at what is true. And more true. And another quote—I love—and am unable to credit is—“Don’t judge someone on the chapter of their life you walk in on.” Better still, don’t judge someone. Just allow all the truth to be seen, invited and loved as we create the better world, together. Impacts we intend, and those we don’t. All part of this human journey. Humbling. Your words helped me with something I am facing right now—so a special thanks from me.

  • Rev. Doug LeBow Reply

    Not being one to judge…I did honestly think aloud that amidst the outpouring of information and emotion…and knowing you personally…you must have either simply forgotten, or just didn’t know that Kobe had also had this shadow in his past behavior. I’ve always taught my kids to simply admit to mistakes and do their best to take responsibility, and I’ve always known you and Chuck to do the same and be “good people”. You still are in my book!

  • Stephani Roy McCallum Reply

    Dear Rick – I thought your newsletter yesterday was interesting but didn’t have a memorable impact on me. This newsletter is significantly different. Thank you for reminding us how leaders take responsibility for their impact – unintended or otherwise. I had a conversation with an indigenous leader recently who thanked me for making the distinction between impact and intention – as he doesn’t care about someone’s intentions, what matters more is their impact.
    I learned that from you.
    I appreciate you owning your impact and apologizing for what it created for some people.
    I would also offer that there is an opportunity here to remind ourselves that we are all made up of the entirety of our actions and choices. I’ve made mistakes, missteps and caused harm. And I’ve had successes and done great work in the world too.
    Kobe is no exception. He was a human being.
    I would be sad if by taking responsibility for impact you fell into the path of demonizing another human and making them “bad” (or “good” as some others have done). I know in these days of picking sides that tends not to be a very popular opinion.
    He is who he was – and he did some awful, hateful, misogynistic things as well as some thoughtful, inspiring, impactful things.
    Like all of us.
    As always, thanks for your leadership in the world.

  • Emilia Reply

    Rick, thank you so much for this honest, heartfelt note. When I first heard of Kobe’s death, I thought “oh how tragic” but then a small part of my brain asked “wait, isn’t this one of those guys who got away with rape or something?” so I looked it up. And sure enough, it looked like fame and money allowed the case to get resolved in his favor, not the victim’s. So it reminded me of the injustices/crimes that we see every day that get resolved in favor of men with money and power. And I’ve frankly been disgusted online at the almost canonization of Kobe now that he’s dead. Yes, no human being is perfect but he committed a crime and got away with it. And if I were his victim, I would be seething.
    Do I blame you or am I mad at you for participating in the collective canonization of Kobe? Not at all. I think you got caught up in it like everyone else and did NOT know what he’d done. I know your heart and you don’t have it in you to trample over the hearts of all the victims out there (men or women) who are struggling with the way he’s being portrayed. I’m lucky that I’m not a victim of sexual assault or violence of any kind but my heart hurts for all the victims that feel disenfranchised and victimized again by the portrayal of men like Kobe. Unfortunately in the age of Trump, it goes all the way to the top and men are getting away with it. Rick, you are a light among men and I’m proud to know you and will support your work in any way I can. Your apology and recognition of the hurt that newsletter caused to others shows your character to the world and I respect and love you profoundly. And I will sign my name to this – Millie

  • Carm Ciotti-Hooper Reply

    Hi Rick,
    I too felt the feelings that others leaned into and let you know. For me, I just shut down and didn’t want to read anymore about him.
    Not a good leadership quality …. I know. It’s been 16 months for me since I experienced an unthinkable tragedy AND there are good days AND not so good days. Here’s my take on all of this.

    Yes… we live in a world of constant change. Yes… we as humans are not perfect AND yes we can make incredible mistakes during our existence on this beautiful place we call earth. AND when do we say to one another I forgive you.

    Yes Kobe did the unthinkable wrong AND yes her did incredible rights. We as human beings are saddened with his tragic passing AND let’s learn from it differently. How precious our existence is on this earth and acknowledge that we had that person with us as long as we did. Amen

  • Lennie Noiles Reply

    Thank you for modeling leadership responsibility.

  • Shannon Kelly Reply

    I so appreciate this humble and thoughtful response to the feedback you received. I missed the Kobe post but caught this one. Love to you and Chuck. Xoxo

  • Barry Bettman Reply

    Appreciate the thread, and now and reading all of it and comments, feeling quite confused.

  • Dean Regan Reply

    Thanks for your newsletter on Sunday. I look forward to them and they always make a positive impact. Sunday’s was no exception. You chose to shine a light on a particularly aspect of Mr. Bryant the would uplift and inspire.

    Though I am not deeply aware of the facts behind Mr. Bryant’s sexual assault, I am also not deeply aware of Mr. Bryant’s talents and skills on the court! But, I was inspired by the video that you uploaded. Today’s outreach was EVEN MORE positive and brilliantly shared.

    Thank you for navigating the impact of your Sunday newsletter about Mr. Bryant and sharing it with us. I trust that the responses you received, both positive and negative will continue to elevate you as the true leader that you are. You, Chuck and PRODUCE U are providing such an important service to our community. Thank you.

  • Gary Elbaum Reply

    Rick, you’re a good man and a mench.
    Much love,

  • John Breeze Reply

    Mixed feelings here. Kobe Bryant was a sports icon who was widely admired by what he brought to that community and the impact that he undoubtedly had on inspiring young people to take the opportunity to break out of the shackles of their early upbringing. And like so many of us, he was flawed — and that in ways that so many of us cannot admire.
    The manner of his death must have been frightening for him, and for everyone on board that helicopter. However we might view his flaws, I doubt that any would have wished that fate for him, if only because it has eliminated any further opportunity for atonement.
    I admire your reaction and responsibility for the unintended impact of your original tribute. Apparently, some found it less than balanced, at least in their view. And if there’s one thing we have learned in the past 3 years or so, ignoring the views of people that we do not agree with is also going to have some unintended consequences, if not now, then at some point in the future.
    So kudos to you for stepping into this space of intolerance and showing true leadership in taking that responsibility and reaching out again to repair relationships. Would that more people would be willing to follow your lead!

  • Elizabeth Reply

    I was surprised that you didn’t mention the damaging parts of Kobe’s background in your original newsletter.

    I just assumed you didn’t know about the rape incident…I’m still not clear whether you initially knew or not.

    If you simply didn’t know, that’s surprising, but somewhat understandable.

    If you DID know and forgot or minimized it to yourself, that really is a shadow area…even more so in the age of “Me Too”…

    I’m glad you’re exploring this shadow area to learn more! It takes courage to dive into that discomfort…

  • Sabrina Roblin Reply

    Thank you for modeling vulnerability and responsibility! You modeled the character development work that you advocated in your original post. So appreciate you in my life and in our world.

  • Kathy Robbins Reply

    Thank you for being an authentic, brave, thoughtful leader. I think you are being too hard on yourself. But I appreciate your depth, caring and willingness to grow and evolve.
    I love that your first response is to look for the good. “It’s all made up, so why not?”

  • Nancy Smyth Reply

    Thank you, Rick, for being you and listening when our hearts speak. Much love,

  • Jackie Reply

    Thanks Rick for inviting us into the conversation. Be gracious to yourself as we are all learning and growing on this journey called life. Sexual assault in our country no doubt is a serious problem -especially in the world of sports- and needs to be addressed and eliminated. And, what we All would do well to remember is that Kobe was a human being. A person just like us. Very talented in many areas but human. Is not each and everyone of us talented and gifted, yet also at capable of making bad choices? Arrogant choices, and even deeply hurtful choices? Loved the quote Lisa shared above and a quote written by Kobe’s priest in a recent CNN article on Jan 30, 2020 entitled ”Kobe Bryant sought redemption through his Catholic faith.

    ”Our faults never define the totality of who we are.”
    If you continue to read more on Kobe, you will see he did ask for forgiveness for many of his public sins and I suspect his private ones too. “That was ignorant on my own part. I own it and learn from it and expect the same from others.” Judge if you choose, but I choose to see the ownership, the accountability, and humility.. all great leadership traits we should not overlook.

  • Nadja Reply

    Hi Rick, I wasn’t quite moved by your tribute to Kobe Bryant as I am by this Newsletter. Vulnerability always invites connection and reflection in ourselves. What I love about this piece is that I feel that you can be quite hard and critical to yourself, but you don’t get stuck in it. You move on and take responsibility. If you would remain feeling guilty, no-one would benefit. By stepping up and taking responsibility, reaching out and sharing, you show how we can move beyond our dysfunctional modes of guilt, shame, blame and victimhood. It resonates deeply with me as I am going through a phase of processing guilt and shame of not having been the mother my daughter needed me to be when she was young. I realise that I, you and we all can make a difference NOW. The present counts. What has happened in the past, we cannot change. But we can take firmly charge of the presence and shape our fate and the fate of others consciously and compassionately. Thanks for sharing this piece, Rick, it made my morning.

  • Ellen Stewart Reply

    There is a very balanced recount of the sexual assault in the LA times that details the case, that I found helpful. https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-01-26/what-happened-kobe-bryant-sexual-assault-case

    He did admit that he believes that he had consensual sex with the victim and that through the trial he cam to understand that she dId not believe that they did and apologized. In 2003 I believe that as a society we also felt that was ok. We applauded the remorse and moved on. If that same act happened in 2019 he probably would have been convicted.

    My hope is that Kobe meant those words and that he spent the rest of his life channeling that remorse into his wife, his daughters and the organizations that he was a part of building including the Mamba Academy.

    Thanks for your vulnerability Rick, you have always been true to your values. For many years the world has let sexual assault victims down, and we are Now starting to really hear them. Thank you for holding the other perspective. There is power in being with things that are uncomfortable, they make us change.

  • Daniel Renaud Reply

    Ho! Thanks for this important update.

  • Myrna Reply

    Thanks Rick. Just wondering how you would re-write the narrative.? Would you just not speak to or use the word character? Would you simply detach the video? Would you do research on the case and report all of the facts? Would you mention his infidelity? Or, are you apologizing for sending it out all together? Just wondering. For me, your original message shined a light on an imperfect individual who has made significant strides toward making this world better. It seemed appropriate to pay tribute to all he was in such a tragedy. Tributes don’t normally highlight the dark side of a situation. That’s what they are designed to do…uplift; shine light in the midst of darkness and not make it darker. I am not a fan of basketball or even Kobe to be honest, However, I was inspired by what he accomplished. I am also not a proponent of rape or abuse of any kind. I have empathy for anybody that has been impacted in this way. I am striving to leave a decent legacy behind me. What I hope is that anyone who can speak to the difference I have made doesn’t feel obligated to research all I wasn’t. There’s an appropriate time to state all of the facts, but a tribute is just not that time. Thanks for clearing your conscious…activating your leader within, but for me…no apology necessary.

  • Brye Vankerk Reply

    Thank you Rick for continuing to show up as an example of great leadership by stepping directly and vulnerably into this complex and emotional discussion. What you have taught me about leadership is that we don’t control others emotions, however we are responsible for the emotional space we create and how we care for that and shape it. Your posts are great examples of that leadership. The situation surrounding Kobe’s life is complex and multifaceted. He was a great athlete and a great example of leadership in many ways. He also had a very traumatic impact on someone in his life. Of course no one knows what happened, other than he and the woman that night. However, how we show up after, how we step into owning our mistakes, particularly the most traumatic ones, is what builds and shows character. As exemplified by your post and taking accountability for impact. What has been disappointing to me is that the deification of Kobe based only on his accomplishments re-victimizes those that have been negatively impacted by his decisions and lack of accountability.

    Thank you for your amazing leadership as always in facing right into a difficult emotional topic!

  • Lorie Alveshere Sommer Reply

    I read your “unintended impact and irresponsibility” email during a long day of travel & my tired brain could only take so much in. Went back to it today when I became aware of an unintended impact that I’ve recently had. I really stepped in something. Not what I meant to do… but it was the felt impact. Thanks for your example and vulnerability. Appreciating feeling not alone in my humanmess today.

  • cindy Reply

    You are an amazing person.
    Everything you write or say is always so powerful and has such impact on a person.
    Thank you for just being you.

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