On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Coro Fellows
Young Leaders

Coro Fellows

As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

Appetite for arrogance

Q:Throughout history and the animal kingdom, leadership has been associated with sexual dominance. While we eschew that association in modern times, the fact of so many sexual scandals among public leaders, the latest being New York Congressman Eric Massa, raises the question: Why do so many leaders fall prey to confusing power with sexual charisma? Do leaders face more personal temptations than the rest of us?

American tolerance for sexual dalliance among our elected leadership is pretty low. The drama of the situation captures our imagination, while our holier-than-though judgment feeds the ego.

What we forget, though, is that power is appeal. In an elected position, you are often surrounded by people who admire you, want to be with you, and suddenly find you bewitching. Indeed, elected officials face more temptation from their steady band of admirers and flatterers than ordinary citizens.

The abuse comes, however, when the elected considers himself entitled to sexual dominance and immune to cultural and social mores. Ultimately, we are not animals, and we have moved beyond allowing leaders to have, a la Henry VIII, whatever sexual conquest they desire. Whether seducing congressional pages or sleeping with interns or groping staffers, this behavior indicates a repugnant sense of sexual privilege.

I think the public can recognize that elected officials face more temptations and pressures. Nonetheless, the line is crossed when politicians give in and turn temptation into entitlement. --Sean Holiday


What confusion?

Power and sexual charisma go hand in hand, from the President of the United States to the leader of a small non-profit. So what is the confusion? Personal temptation confronts only those willing to accept it, regardless of one's power.

Don't get me wrong: sexual dominance is closely correlated to temptation. Those who are more attractive will draw more attention, and that in turn can become a temptation. But, to simply acknowledge sexual charisma as an 'immoral' component of power distracts from the root of the issue: pervasive sexual communication is inherent in our culture.

Modern culture has created blinders that make us believe we are living in a puritanical environment. However, human interaction has a sexual undertone; we just choose to ignore it. As these sexual scandals continue to arise, I hope we enter a conscious discussion of how sexual drives are present within our interactions, rather than simply ignoring them. --Frank Rodriguez

By Coro Fellows

 |  March 11, 2010; 3:03 AM ET
Category:  Failures Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 'Transformers' meets PBS | Next: Sex and power

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company