According to Malcolm Gladwell, the 18th Irrefutable Law of Leadership is the Law of Sacrifice. The subtitle to said chapter is “A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up,” which is further explained as the need for effective leaders to understand that the higher they climb, the more they may have to give up. True leaders give up the right to think of only themselves.
Recently, Jemele Hill announced that she is giving up her spot on the well-publicized ESPN show, The Six, with co-host Michael Smith.
Gone were the days of the expansive demographic of sports fans watching reruns of SportsCenter episodes until they fell asleep. ESPN needed new blood and fresh material. The conglomerate ousted some well-known staples their respective spaces in favor of prettier faces in hopes of recapturing the gullible male audience that dominates sports fan population. Along with the influx of talent, ESPN also shifted their show lineup. Thus, the metamorphosis from the His and Hers podcast into the His and Hers television show into SC6. Prior to it’s February launch, SC6 was billed as a fresh, hip-hop take on what had become a stale franchise.
It is said that the only constant is change. In this case, change brought Hill to primetime television and was also the leading factor in her exit from the coveted position. As ESPN clamored to increase viewership, the needle began to lean more towards the “E” in Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Hill is indeed entertaining, but she comes from the school of journalism. She made her bones through journalistic writing and riveting commentary. Her voice and presence in sports grew in congruence with her voice and presence on subject matters outside of sports; specifically issues of social justice. Hill does a great job of engaging with her fans and haters on social media. Her opinions are typically well thought out, and more importantly, well explained – a nod to her journalism background.
Unfortunately, when holding an esteemed position as a visible face of a conglomerate such as ESPN, there is a level of quid pro quo involved. Regardless of how and why one is promoted to be a face of a large corporation, toeing the company line is often a silent trade-off for staying in favor with the suits. Hill moved up due mostly to her ability to stand her ground in the face of a male dominated arena and successfully participate in the barbershop-esque banter of the His and Her Podcast on Friday and hard-hitting commentary of The Sports Reporters on Sunday. She does not lean on her ethnicity or gender as much as she uses her experiences in both to provide a unique perspective and drive commentary about issues that should be discussed freely and fairly.
Hill has always been unapologetically her. Her voice is impactful. There is an infinite amount of opinions on an infinite amount of subjects flying through the Twitterverse at any given moment of any given day. Hill’s, however, have brought the ire of the guy who holds the highest position in the free world. Her opinions and willingness to speak on them caused her to be suspended on more than one occasion and led to subsequent apology letters/words of contrition. In my opinion, the penning of each of those apologies chipped at her soul. This is not who she is. She says what she means and means what she says. Forcing her to apologize for something she meant to say, especially after thinking it through prior to typing it, is asking her to minimize her beliefs for the sake of the ESPN brand. A quick delve into the background of her life would allow one to understand how important it is to her to keep her integrity squarely intact. I, for one, saw the change of the whole “SC6” thing but knew that His and Hers wasn’t built for SportsCenter from the beginning. Hill and Smith moving to primetime is like your favorite local artist signing with a mainstream record. Change is inevitable, but not always welcomed or organic.
Ultimately, ESPN and Hill will continue their relationship in a different capacity. They work as friends but cannot be lovers. Jemele Hill is a leader. She exudes the 18th Law of Leadership. She is willing to sacrifice her position, the limelight – the sought-after seat at the SportsCenter table – to be true to herself. Whether ESPN pushed her out, encouraged her to rethink her job, or eagerly agreed to her switching positions is inconsequential. The vital fact is that Hill knows herself well enough to know when something is not for her. Her discernment and moxie should be championed. Hill’s prestige comes in the form of purpose. She displays the 18th Law of Leadership: Law of Sacrifice, but understands it’s 17th Law: Law of Priorities, is the one worth fighting for.