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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

From policy wonk to rock star

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?

In a word, yes.

Today's political leaders are surrounded by people who need their help. Constituents want their policy interests represented in the halls of power. Colleagues come calling for support on any number of legislative or regulatory initiatives. And even staffers are constantly jockeying for roles that will help advance their careers. When everyone around a leader has their hand out, the Chris Rock wisdom that "a man is only as faithful as his options" begins to look less like a punch line and more like absolute truth.

Of course, the word "faithful" can take on myriad definitions in a town like Washington D.C. Sometimes, it means remaining true to one's own beliefs when wealthy donors offer big campaign contributions. In other situations, it refers to a leader's ability to resist the quid pro quos that are so often traded as the prevailing form of political currency. And, every now and again, it also means maintaining the highest standard of professionalism and moral fortitude when the favors offered in return for a leader's support are of a sexual nature.

Simply put, the temptation to let "power corrupt" is something that all of today's leaders must wrestle with. And when it comes to pleasures of the flesh, those temptations are all the harder to deny not because leaders confuse power with sexual charisma, but because power and sexual charisma are often one and the same. Add the celebrity status now attributed to even the most anonymous politician - most of whom have dedicated their pre-policy-making lives to intellectual, rather than social, pursuits - and you soon have a perfect recipe for sexual indiscretion.

Washington is called "Hollywood for Ugly People" for the very reason that many leaders love the attention and ego-boosts that come with their newfound power. Most of our political leaders didn't get where they are today because of their dashing good looks or flawless attire. In fact, it's often just the opposite - and when powerful people who've spent most of their lives chasing dates all-of-the-sudden find that they are the ones being chased, it must be hard to resist the one thing that has rocked more political careers than anything else.

By Robert Goodwin

 |  March 12, 2010; 3:52 PM ET
Category:  Failures Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Use the organ test. Would I give this woman one of my kid-knees? If yes, safe to enter. If no, stay out of her.

Charge, cheers and the enemy had broke. We are the attacking party. She is invading the mall and the house is filling with shoes. The shopping bills can give you a heart attack. Be like a duck. All calm above the water and paddling like crazy below. Washington looks like Duck Soup these days.

Posted by: tossnokia | March 13, 2010 8:31 AM
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"temptations are all the harder to deny not because leaders confuse power with sexual charisma, but because power and sexual charisma are often one and the same. "

Brilliant post, Robert. Couldn't have said it better myself. Who worded that question anyway?

Posted by: ZZim | March 12, 2010 5:09 PM
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