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

Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

Not a character flaw

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?

Our leaders are not perfect? You mean being really good at one thing, even leadership, does not guarantee being good at everything else? So what else is new?

Private shortcomings should only be matters of public concern if they adversely affect public policies, which, in my view, neither smoking nor weight do; temper may, but I doubt that Gordon Brown's temper has affected his success or failure as prime minister.

Alcoholism does affect leadership talent and would and should be a matter of public concern. But of course not all, or even most, consumption of alcoholic beverages indicate alcoholism. Winston Churchill's drinking certainly was not alcoholism and obviously did not adversely impact the performance of the twentieth century's greatest leader.

Metabolisms differ. Some make smoking and weight more difficult to control than others do. So those challenges are not comments on character or ability. I am not an supporter of most of President Obama's policies, but I don't attribute his shortcomings to his smoking and I wish him every success in fighting the habit.

By Slade Gorton

 |  March 2, 2010; 5:31 AM ET
Category:  Leadership weaknesses Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The $400 haircut | Next: In praise of damaged leaders

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company