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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Forgiveness Is Beside the Point

Marriage is one of the most important commitments a person can make. If you can't be true to your marriage, if you break your vow whenever you find it convenient to do so, then you aren't likely to be committed in other significant areas of your life, including your professional obligations. Anyone who would violate that pledge to the people nearest to his heart - spouse and children - is capable of being irresponsible in any situation. So, most definitely, marital fidelity predicts character and leadership ability.

Whether in politics or business, a sense of commitment is essential in a leader. He must be committed to his profession, to the people who work for him, to ethical conduct. Otherwise, he will be unable to earn the trust and respect of others. And without those, no manager is able to lead. Nor is he worthy to lead.

Of course, we can find it in our hearts to forgive Mark Sanford and others for their transgressions; we're all human. But forgiveness is beside the point when we're discussing the attributes of leadership. The far more pressing concern is one of trust, and I think this applies especially to the political arena. Trust is something a leader has either earned or lost, and once he has done something to shatter the trust of the people he leads, he can't get it back. He has forfeited the opportunity to be a leader.

By Yash Gupta

 |  June 30, 2009; 11:22 AM ET
Category:  Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Dereliction of Duty | Next: Transgressions vs. Contributions

Comments

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There is value in the "Let's not assess professional qualities on the basis of personal behavior" argument, insofar as it's worthwhile to avoid conflating opinions of personal (especially sexual) behavior and career qualifications (see "Don't ask, don't tell" policy).

That said, the argument simply does not apply here. Governor Sanford has shown a complete lack of integrity to his word, and those without integrity simply cannot be trusted to lead. The personal nature of his behavior is completely irrelevant - the man is a sleaze, and his state will be much better off with a different chief executive.

Just my opinion.

Posted by: lyricos | July 2, 2009 11:44 AM
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Absolutely right Mr. Gupta. GC4Life - don't you see that it all comes from the same place? Infidelity to his family and infidelity to the people he represents? What it shows is his putting his own desires above everyone else and being immature, irresponsible, untrustworthy. People keep saying that personal life is private and has nothing to do w/ anything else, I couldn't disagree more. It says loads about a person.

Posted by: ssen | July 1, 2009 4:10 PM
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I completely agree with the commentary by Dr. Gupta. I expect political leaders to be able to discern about difficult choices and, when necessary, make a hard decision. A decision that may not benefit themselves personally but the decision that is fair and correct for their constituency. Obviously political leanings play into the discernment but there is no justification for adultery. If a marriage has gone bad then there are responsible and respectful ways to end it. What this shows is an individual that will act for personal gain regardless of its impact to the others involved.

Posted by: bill16 | July 1, 2009 1:16 PM
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I completely agree with the commentary by Dr. Gupta. I expect political leaders to be able to discern about difficult choices and, when necessary, make a hard decision. A decision that may not benefit themselves personally but the decision that is fair and correct for their constituency. Obviously political leanings play into the discernment but there is no justification for adultery. If a marriage has gone bad then there are responsible and respectful ways to end it. What this shows is an individual that will act for person gain regardless of its impact the others involved.

Posted by: bill16 | July 1, 2009 1:10 PM
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I do agree with the trust part, but I don't agree with the adultry being the biggest loss of trust for the Gov Sanford. He lied to his staff and his constituiants about his whereabouts. That in itself is the biggest issue. Him leaving his post and the adultry are chaff in distracting us from the lieing to his people problem.

Posted by: GC4Life | July 1, 2009 6:51 AM
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Absolutely correct, Mr. Gupta. Trust and integrity are the real issues here. What I keep reading over and over is a sense of 'what's the big deal, it's only a sexual affair' or worse...'it's none of our business.' Neither is true. Mr. Gupta is correct. If a man (or woman) can so flagrantly and easily deceive their spouse and ultimately their own children, then one can say that their focus is on their own selfishness and shows a serious lack of caring for the people most precious to them. If a man (or woman) cannot or will not love their spouse, there is divorce. There should be no cheating...cheating begets lies and lies beget more lies. At that point the person's life becomes a serious of lies and sneaking and omissions and not being there. This man has proved he is unfit for public office . At some point, our country has to decide if we want our leaders to be good people of character and integrity, not just good at making political points.

Posted by: anniemargret | June 30, 2009 10:04 PM
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I have to disagree with the fundamental premise stated above. It's unfair to equate personal and professional behavior. It's quite common for an obsession with one to lead to problems in the other and many can speak to the problems of trying to "balance personal and professional obligations."

That said, I personally do expect one to at least be contextually consistent and Sanford has been anything but. He was one of the core group of Republicans during the runup to Clinton's impeachment hearings who attempted to define the standard of morality our leaders were to be measured by. Such blatant hypocrisy is what cannot be deemed acceptable.

Posted by: washpost18 | June 30, 2009 8:02 PM
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Mark Sinford

Posted by: roboturkey | June 30, 2009 6:45 PM
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I was shocked when I read this article. Someone actually wrote an article on the subject of trust that I actually agree with. Mark Sanford cheated on his wife and family, that's his business, and he has to live with the consequences. One of those consequences is the loss of trust. Trust that he can use good judgement, trust that he can keep his word and commitments, trust that he won't run off again not telling anyone where he is going, trust that he will put the business of the people who pay his salary before his personal needs to fulfill whatever need was obviously missing. I don't care what he did, it's his business; but I wouldn't trust him anymore. He lied, he cheated, and he went AWOL. I agree with Yash Gupta - He has forfeited the opportunity to be a leader.

Posted by: artschlussel1 | June 30, 2009 3:28 PM
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