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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Sex and power

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?

Henry Kissinger once said that power is "the ultimate aphrodisiac." And it's not just power: celebrity also attracts groupies and stalkers. The sex drive is very malleable and attaches itself to different strivings, including the wish to be intimately connected to glamorous or powerful people. For women, there could also be a psychobiological element, that being loved, impregnated and protected by powerful men increases the odds of surviving with offspring.

It is not at all surprising that politicians and celebrities have many affairs. The more puzzling question is why so many politicians jeopardize their careers by giving in to illicit sexual temptations. Most likely, they think they can get away with it . When found out, most, like Bill Clinton and John Edwards, try to deny the accusation of infidelity.

These are narcissistic personalities with weak superegos to police their impulses. They have become used to the courtiers and followers who feed their narcissism with lavish praise. They see themselves as flying above the rest of us, working hard to serve the public. The rules that others should follow are not for them. They are special. And so it goes.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  March 11, 2010; 6:01 AM ET
Category:  Failures Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Appetite for arrogance | Next: Powerful women not a turn-on


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Great post, Michael. Some guys get carried away.

Then we have other guys like Presidents Obama and Bush who are as squeaky-clean as it is possible to be in their personal lives.

Posted by: ZZim | March 12, 2010 5:16 PM
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