The Messages Will Smith’s Resignation From The Academy Are Sending To Business Leaders


In the aftermath of some headline-making crisis situations, there is often finger-pointing and calls for those responsible to be fired. On occasion, CEOs and other company officials who are blamed for a crisis or are associated with a controversy opt to be proactive and decide that it is better to jump than be pushed.

Actor Will Smith appeared to prefer the former over the latter today when he suddenly and unexpectedly announced his resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences less than a week after he slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage at the Academy Awards in Hollywood.

In the days after the internationally televised incident, there was speculation that the Academy would suspend or terminate Smith’s membership or penalize him in other ways.

Will Smith’s Statement

In a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Smith said today he was heartbroken and would accept all consequences for his conduct.

“My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home,” Smith said.

“I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film.”

According to Variety, he concluded by saying, “change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”

Plummeting Popularity

Prior to his resignation, Forbes reported that only 50% of U.S. adults now view Smith favorably, the poll found, down from 80% in January 2020 and 77% in September 2018, according to a new Morning Consulting poll.

Ironically, Smith’s remorseful statement today could turn out to be the first step on hus long road back from the crisis, and the launch of a national or even international apology tour.

Impact Of Resignation

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that “Smith’s resignation means he can no longer vote for the Oscars—but he can still be nominated for future Academy Awards, attend future ceremonies and keep the statue he won. But the Academy’s formal review will continue.”

Next Steps For The Academy

Smith’s resignation does not mean, however, that the Academy will stop their recently launched investigation into his behavior last Sunday.

“We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” the Academy said in a statement. “We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”

Advice And Key Messages For Business Leaders

Corey Ashton Walters is the founder of Here, an online real estate marketplace. He said the biggest takeaway for business leaders from Smith’s resignation, “… is that their apology needs to be sincere.

“His statements and resignation displayed emotion and honesty. Transparency is essential in repairing relationships and it takes a lot of strength to be compassionate and genuine when you’re the person at fault,” Walters commented.

Corporate executives who have been following the Academy’s unfolding crisis this week can learn several lessons from the situation and follow these crisis management best practices:

Don’t Act Compulsively

  • Carefully consider your actions and words before you do or say anything. You can never unring the bell.

Ask Others

  • Weigh the potential consequences or impact of what you are thinking of doing or saying. Time and circumstances permitting, consult with trusted advisors, colleagues and friends for their feedback and guidance

Don’t Wait

  • The sooner you can end a crisis and begin the recovery process, the better.
  • Sometimes that means doing what has to be done to take yourself, your company or your organization out of the headlines as quickly as possible.

Keep Ego In Check

  • Don’t let ego, pride or arrogance get in the way of doing the right thing.

Be Proactive

  • It can be better to be proactive and penalize yourself than to drag out a crisis endlessly and wind up being punished or sanctioned by others.

Express Remorse

  • When resigning, express the appropriate level of regret and remorse and apologize for your actions.

Avoid The Blame Game

  • Do not blame others for the crisis, damage or harm that you caused.


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