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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

The needy leader

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?

There may have been a time in the annals of human history when strong (male) leaders coupled their leadership prowess with sexual prowess. Those days, if they ever did exist, are long over.

Instead, it seems we've developed a new inverse relationship in politics and sex: needy men who are hungry for public validation run for office, seeking the support and admiration of voters as an emotional fix for their own lack of self-acceptance. But like any fix, the applause and acclaim that comes with getting elected only lasts so long.

Sooner or later the hole in the center of their soul cries out for another fix -- something riskier, something more dangerous, even forbidden. Something that demonstrates that the needy leader is not only loved, but also special, exempt from the constraints of ordinary men.

Illicit sex fills the bill. It provides the empty-at-the-center leader with a regular dose of adulation outside the boundaries of mundane life. It's a little bit naughty; it's the forbidden fruit--and because it's forbidden, not only the sex but also the danger feeds the addict's secret need. There may even be some kind of thrill involved when the secret is finally disclosed--as it almost always is--a sense of relief at having been found out, a return to reality, and also the opportunity to talk about the dirty little truth in public. Once again, the needy leader is in the spotlight as a special case, notorious if not famous.

It's probably not the case that these sad leaders are more to be pitied than censored.
It probably is the case that we'd all be better off not voting for them in the first place. And it's another reason why electoral politics is, and should be, all about how comfortable the candidate is in his own skin. Because the more comfortable he is in his own skin, the more likely he is, once he's in office, to stay away from other people's skins.

By Alan M. Webber

 |  March 11, 2010; 4:10 PM ET
Category:  Failures Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The halo-pitchfork cycle | Next: Beware, new leaders


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"It's probably not the case that these sad leaders are more to be pitied than censored."

I don't see any conflict with pitying them AND censuring them.

PS – You misspelled “censured”.

Posted by: ZZim | March 12, 2010 3:47 PM
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The women I know all say that sexual misbehavior in marriage is about compensating for a small penis. No one voted to keep such a slime ball in her life - he would be a health risk.

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | March 11, 2010 10:11 PM
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