Thanks for another excellent article about the responsibility of wearing the leadership ‘mantle’, whatever that may be for a particular individual’s situation. The whole Rob Ford Saga is quite entertaining for those who thrive on lurid headlines about the downfall of powerful leaders and celebrity figures. However, the flip side is the enormous cost to individuals who fall from grace (use your own definition for this), their families, co-workers and friends. While many will argue that one’s personal life shouldn’t be used to judge their effectiveness as leaders, it’s hard to argue against the idea that what one does in their personal life usually carries over to their work, often with equally bad outcomes.
In today’s world, with instant and ubiquitous media, your message about leaders needing to be careful is particularly true. In year’s past, the personal life and excesses of celebrities and high-profile leaders was known to a select inner circle. But this is no longer true and I’ll share with you my aha moment in this regard. About seven years ago, I was attending a national conference for association leaders in Canada and there were many high-profile leaders attending. I was at a bar one evening, the lights were low and the party was going strong, when I noticed all these little flashes going off. This was the fairly early days of cell phones with cameras (I have to admit I didn’t have one at the time with a flash), and my friend explained that these were people taking pictures, many of which ended up on Facebook and other social media within seconds. Well, I stood there and had my aha moment and I knew that one’s privacy was a thing of the past. I also realized that, depending on the circumstances when a particular picture was taken, it could show me being in a compromising or poor situation, when in fact I wasn’t.
So, to reinforce Vince’s point about the responsibilities of leadership, it’s not about being caught doing things that are unworthy of a leader, it’s about one’ own standards of behavior, regardless of what situation we are in, either in public or private life. A leader is indeed held to a higher standard, regardless of whether that is fair on not, and, if one wants to accept the accolades, power, respect, etc., that comes with that tag, then, leaders must also accept the obligations that go with it and live a lifestyle that respects the higher standard that society expects.
While Rob Ford’s circumstances have become fodder for the media and comics everywhere, I’m sure that there are many leaders who are cringing when they see what is going on with Mr. Ford’s life (and one can only imagine what it’s doing to his family), and are hoping that he will do whatever he needs to do to improve his leadership situation and his personal life, sooner rather than later.