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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

THE QUESTION

A leader's hidden vices?

Barack Obama still sneaks cigarettes. Gordon Brown has a mean temper. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin struggles with her weight. At what point do a leader's personal vices begin to undermine effectiveness? Is it better to hide them or acknowledge them?

Posted by Steve Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti on March 1, 2010 10:14 AM
FROM THE PANEL
Robert Goodwin

Vice: our common ground

They call it public life for a reason. If you have a vice, share it -- we'll find out about it anyways.

Posted by Robert Goodwin, on March 4, 2010 11:07 PM
Juana Bordas

Private peccadilloes, public sin

Shouldn't we be less concerned about the smoking president and more concerned with the smoking gun that indicates that our leaders are breaking the public trust?

Posted by Juana Bordas, on March 3, 2010 2:02 PM

Privacy is old-fashioned

Says Google CEO Eric Schmidt: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Posted by Amy M. Wilkinson, on March 3, 2010 10:42 AM
Donald Kettl

A refreshing breath of off-message reality

How do we know what's real and what's artificial? A sly peek at a leader's vices helps make them real people.

Posted by Donald Kettl, on March 3, 2010 10:19 AM
Marshall Goldsmith

Leave them alone!

We are all human beings and these "little vices" are not impacting their work.

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith, on March 3, 2010 10:14 AM

Vices can be humanizing

Perhaps by having his temper exposed, Brown has been revealed as passionately pursuing an agenda which the public understands.

Posted by Michael Maccoby, on March 2, 2010 11:47 AM
Yash Gupta

Quit in public

The president would do well to say, "Look, I smoke now and then, but I know it's unhealthy, and I'm working hard to quit."

Posted by Yash Gupta, on March 2, 2010 10:56 AM

In praise of damaged leaders

Our next great leaders will dare to be flawed and that, in part, is why people will follow them.

Posted by Martin Davidson, on March 2, 2010 5:45 AM
Slade Gorton

Not a character flaw

I am not an supporter of most of President Obama's policies, but I wish him every success in fighting the habit.

Posted by Slade Gorton, on March 2, 2010 5:31 AM

The $400 haircut

Pay less attention to the vice and more attention to the disparity between who leaders pretends to be and what they actually do in real life.

Posted by Alan M. Webber, on March 2, 2010 5:15 AM

'The vices I admire'

As Winston Churchill, himself no stranger to brandy and cigars, once quipped about someone he knew: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

Posted by John Baldoni, on March 2, 2010 5:07 AM

Leaders: Approach the confessional!

Honesty for leaders is still the best policy. Because if they don't talk about it first, someone else will bring it up.

Posted by Coro Fellows, on March 2, 2010 12:40 AM

The self-aware leader

At a very basic level, trustworthy leaders are those whose actions are consistent with their words

Posted by Gail S. Williams, on March 1, 2010 2:36 PM
Scott DeRue

Leaders who are 'just like us'

People around the world struggle everyday with habits that they cannot break, and we all lose control over our emotions at times.

Posted by Scott DeRue, on March 1, 2010 2:31 PM
John H. Cochran, MD

Frank with frailties

I don't think it is easy for those of us who have never smoked to understand the grip that nicotine gets on smokers.

Posted by John H. Cochran, MD, on March 1, 2010 2:26 PM
Carol Kinsey Goman

Strong doesn't mean perfect

In fact, people don't trust "perfect."

Posted by Carol Kinsey Goman, on March 1, 2010 2:14 PM
Howard Gardner

No Oprah-style confession

In an age of transparency, it is not possible to hide these personal habits, so far better to be straightforward and honest about them.

Posted by Howard Gardner, on March 1, 2010 2:07 PM

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FEATURED COMMENTS

Dura: It depends on what kind of vice the leader has. Being a leader of an anti-smoking organization, or a health-promoting organization AND smoki...

Virginia10: I can't say I'm a fan of Obama but no, it doesn't undermine his effectiveness. However, his habit certainly diminishes his credibility to p...

mcarroll2: I am guessing these vices are quietly "promoted" to appeal to those who vote based on whether "they want to have a beer with" the candidate....

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