Ryan Lotche is the latest high-profile victim of poor decision making or more simply “himself”. One night of bad decisions influenced by one, or a combination of the three elements – sex, alcohol, and/or “after midnight.” derailed his success story. Rather than celebrating his Olympic successes that he worked daily over the course of years to achieve, he is dealing with the fallout of one night lying on camera, embarrassing the United States, and losing endorsements.

Of course there are other missteps such as greed and power that bring down leaders. However, those elements have a more premeditated and long-term process of destruction. What I am referring to here are individuals who in one night precipitate their world crashing down around them. The disaster is preventable and caused solely from decisions that were made after midnight, and influenced by sex and/or alcohol.

I contend that an individual not only has the potential to have their judgment clouded by sex, alcohol, and after midnight, but as you combine the elements the risks increase exponentially. My evidence is purely anecdotal however; you may have anecdotes that also support my point. Think of several people you know that had a good thing going such as a career, family, relationship, or business venture derailed by a one-time event. What were the causal factors? Were sex, alcohol, and a decision “after midnight” part of the equation?

To be clear here are my definitions to fit the context:

  • Sex: merely the act of pursuing the opposite sex qualifies as sex in this context
  • Alcohol: being under the influence and over the legal limit to drive
  • After midnight: making decisions after 2400 hours local time

Lets look at an example: It is Friday afternoon and the group you lead decides to have an impromptu celebration. Your announcement that the company was awarded the contract that consumed the team for two weeks was greeted with cheers. The celebration starts at happy hour, the drinks flow and everyone is having a good time. Those that try to leave get pressured to stay for dinner. There is plenty of wine and toasting at dinner and as dinner ends the group starts coming up with ideas for what is next that night. It’s getting late, many have had too much to drink, and someone says: “Let’s go across the street to that bar with the band and dance floor.”

Have a picture in your mind? What happens next is up to your imagination or experience. Some possibilities:

  • Nothing negative occurs everything works out fine.
  • A drunken coworker gets in their car and drives home.
  • Someone says something to a coworker that is inappropriate.
  • Someone misses an event with a significant other?
  • Photos of the group and individuals are posted on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Someone streams portions of the event on Periscope.

So what’s the big deal you say, your team is just celebrating a professional success. You are right and a well deserved one. But as a leader what are your roles and responsibilities to yourself, your team, and the organization?

Leaders manage many risks to ensure success, to navigate challenges, and to meet high levels of performance. As professionals they constantly prepare for contingencies, they know their responsibilities, and are ready to fulfill their role 24/7. If that is true, how is it then that leaders from the lowest levels to CEO’s have fallen prey to poor judgment outside the confines of daily routines?

Do decision-making, risk management, and training for scenarios outside of the confines of daily routines have the correct priority in your leadership training and education? Leaders’ decisions 24/7 have an affect at a personal, a professional, and an organizational level. Just ask the Ryan Lochte and the US Olympic Committee.