5 Leadership Lessons From The Slap Heard Around The World

For those of you who watched the 2022 Oscars, you saw and heard the slap heard around the world. Chris Rock, an actor and comedian, cracked a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett.

Chris Rock told Jada that he was looking forward to seeing GI Jane 2. Jada had shaved her head due to a medical condition, alopecia. This condition is an autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss.

A woman slapping another person

Photo by Andrew Le on Unsplash

Will Smith laughs after the joke is made while his wife’s face shows how upset she is. Moments later, after the camera cuts away from Will and Jada, Will approaches the stage and smacks Chris Rock.

(see the video below but be aware there is some coarse language)

Ouch! That is a smack heard around the world.

Social media has been abuzz with this. Some people are calling for Will Smith’s arrest. Others hail Will Smith as a great husband defending his wife’s honor. Still, others are claiming this was all staged.

I’m not sure where I land on the whole issue. It is a sad state of affairs to see this happen on national television.

Despite not knowing what truly happened, I wanted to share what we could take away from this event.

5 Leadership Lessons From The Slap Heard Around The World

1. You will have to deal with the consequences of your words:

While Chris Rock may have been roasting Jada, his words hurt. The look on Jada’s face was pained. Her dignity had been damaged.

While Will Smith did laugh at the joke, the camera cut away for many seconds before Will is seen heading to the stage. Jada may have said something, or her pain may have caught Will’s eye. These moments could have changed how Will saw the situation and he reacted.

Will’s reaction may not have been appropriate. Neither was Chris’ words. Chris had to deal with the results of what he said.

Leaders have to be cautious of what they say. Their words carry more weight than the average person. Their words come from a position of authority.

Your words matter. Choose them carefully.

2. Choose how you react:

Both Will and Chris had opportunities to react. Will reached out and smacked Chris. He chose violence.

Chris stood on stage. He barely reacted to the attack.

Both of those were responses. Both could have chosen differently. Will could have chosen to remain seated. Chris could have retaliated.

We all get to choose our reactions. We can choose to respond appropriately or inappropriately. Choose wisely.

3. Your actions will cause others to react:

One of the less shocking things to come from Will’s actions is the wide-ranging variations in how the public is responding.

People are saying free speech is dead if Will Smith was able to slap or punch Chris Rock. Others are saying Will Smith acted appropriately. Others call what happened staged.

Your actions will produce reactions from those you lead. These reactions can be wide and varied.

Be prepared for your people to respond in ways you could never expect.

4. You may avoid consequences for a time but they will catch up to you:

Will Smith was able to walk away from the incident with Chris Rock unscathed. He wasn’t attacked or detained. In fact, later that night, he was awarded an Oscar for his role in King Richard.

However, he is facing extreme backlash online. People are calling for his arrest. Former fans are saying they will no longer watch a Will Smith movie again. And more.

You may be able to escape your consequences immediately, yet they may catch up to you later.

5. (At this time) We don’t know the whole truth:

This is the big one, folks.

We know what we were shown during the Oscars. We heard the joke, saw Will laugh, saw Jada’s face drop, and we saw Will smack Chris.

The picture appeared clear. The truth is a little more nuanced.

We don’t know if this was scripted. We don’t know what’s happened afterward. All we know is what we were shown.

We may discover there’s more to the story. My gut reaction is that this was staged to garner ratings for the Oscars. Ratings have been falling for years, after all. Could this have been a publicity stunt?

Sure… We just don’t know.

Leaders need to learn how to withhold their judgment until more information is obtained. Jumping to a conclusion with a minutia of data is dangerous.

Whenever you come across something that makes you want to act immediately, pause. Take in additional information. Then react.

Your Response Matters

I want to leave you with one last thought. Remember that your response matters. Regardless of any buttons that are pressed, any words that are said, any actions that are taken, you have the ability to control your response. Make sure your response is measured and controlled.

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