2020 will be remembered as a year where leaders either foiled or rose to the occasion. The global pandemic, and simultaneously the demand for equality and social justice, has created a constant stream of incalculably important decisions. History will remember who stepped up and who failed during the course of it all, and reputations will be made and broken.

The past week saw Facebook take another huge loss with some key advertisers jumping ship from the embattled social media platform. Novak Djokovic’s reputation – and possible legacy amongst his peers and fans of the sport – also took a huge leap back with an ill-advised decision. On the contrary, Microsoft put itself ahead of the pack with a massive philanthropic commitment, and the Atlanta Hawks showed that basketball is truly more than just a game.

Losers
1. Facebook

 

 
Takeaway: The longer an anti-brand movement lingers, the greater the chance it bubbles up into something far bigger. That bigger risk in this case would likely be its users getting in on the action. Facebook should treat this situation with urgency, as the greatest risk by far is one that users begin to boycott the platform.

 

 
2. Novak Djokovic

There is dumb, and then about 100 levels down from that there are varying stages of really dumb. Past that, are those sorts of head scratchers that defy reason and are beyond any explanation, even when we ask ourselves “what were they thinking?” When Novak Djokovic decided to have a tennis tournament with no social distancing precautions, no masks, no warnings, and packed stands in the middle of a global pandemic –  that decision lives in that far far beyond irresponsibly dumb. Not only did Djokovic end up testing positive for COVID-19 but also many others who attended the tournament, including his wife, pro tennis player Victor Troicki and his pregnant wife, NBA star Nikola Jokic and fellow tennis star, Grigor Dmitrov. After the news broke, Djokovic was quick to apologize.

 

 

Takeaway: The only way out of taking an enormous blow to your reputation is to quickly recognize you were in the wrong – admit it, and swallow that most bitter pill. From there, it’s a long crawl back by backing those words up action by action. Showing people you’ve learned from your mistakes and making amends over time is the only way to recover your reputation.

Winners

1. Microsoft

Big tech companies are feeling the burden of pressure — whether it be political (i.e. Facebook, Twitter), worker safety-related (Amazon), or something else. However, Microsoft has found a way to step it up amidst this uncertainty. Yesterday, Microsoft announced the launch of a global initiative to help 25 million people acquire the skills needed to succeed in this challenging COVID-19 economy. The training programs and certifications will be offered entirely free of charge, making this a big philanthropic offering much that we’ve ever seen before.

The company’s mission is to help this speed up the economic recovery that we’re all hoping to see.The company is also committing to $20 million in grants and offering free technical support to nonprofits. Microsoft is offering all of this to people from 180 countries around the world.This is a paramount example of a company using its means to lift the world during a time when it’s needed most. This should bring the brand a heap of global goodwill, and the company’s products and its LinkedIn platform are also likely to benefit from this over the long haul.

Takeaway: They say that company’s DNA is passed down from its founders and permeates the culture. It’s clear this has happened at Microsoft. While Bill Gates stepped down from his board position in March 2020, an initiative like this has the markings of Gates and his bigger philanthropic aspirations all over it.

2. Atlanta Hawks

With issues like racial injustice, COVID-19, and social unrest taking center stage in this year’s elections, the Atlanta Hawks stepped up with a huge win in converting State Farm Arena into a massive voting precinct. Following a June 9th primary that nearly fell apart at the seams with accusations of voter suppression, impossibly long lines, and voting machine failure, the Hawks’ announcement couldn’t come at a better time.

“We always felt we were a community and civic asset. We took that oath as an opportunity and a big responsibility,” said Principal Owner Tony Ressler.

The Hawks have also agreed to pick up the tab for over 300 full-time State Farm Arena employees as well as well as hundreds of part-time employees. In addition to providing a safe and centralized place to vote, the massive square footage of the arena will provide a safe and practical social distancing environment to limit the possible spread of coronavirus.

“When we saw what we saw on June 9, it was extremely clear that we have a real issue in the state of Georgia and especially here in Atlanta and we felt we had an opportunity to do something special. It was encouraging that we were able to think outside of the box and speak this idea into existence,” said Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.”

People involved in the project were quick to embrace it and left many people asking, “Why hasn’t this been done before?”

Takeaway: If there is the chance to make a difference why not use what you have readily available to do so. Your reputation will thank you. At times it’s easy to think of something serving one function. In this case  it’s a basketball arena. Maybe we are too conditioned to see things one way. Approaching issues with an open mind and abstract solutions can lead to big wins for everyone, including your own reputation.