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Beware, new leaders

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?

Power is the most potent aphrodisiac. Forget oysters, power is at the top of the menu when it comes to sexual arousal. I had only seen it as one way -- women being attracted to powerful men -- until I won a local if well-publicized and hard-fought city council race in the early '80's. Men began to contact me, and it wasn't about the potholes in front of their homes or to get a tax break if they moved their company into the city.

We caution powerful people about how their power needs to be carefully used when it comes to making decisions that affect their office or enterprise, but I wonder how many are warned about the new magnetism they suddenly have (and won't have once their power is gone). We hold women to a much higher standard when it comes to sexual behavior and this is something that we should educate our up and coming political trainees about. Because our sexual power is tied into our ego, as the political ego develops, so may political id. This could lead one to conclude that she can wield this very personal, private power as freely as she does her political power.

Any "sexual" display on a woman's part could cost her for a lifetime. For instance, it has been posited that if Martha Coakley had posed for a magazine in the nude, as Scott Brown had in his early years, she would never have ascended to the level of political power that she occupied. But people's attitude to his posing as a young man was more forgiving if not downright voyeuristic. We do have a huge double standard.

This is much deeper subject: the sexual undercurrent running through politics is strong, and it's used all the time openly or behind the scenes. But it's a power source that has to be reckoned with in leadership, and one that is all to rarely discussed outside of the lascivious details when a scandal erupts.

By Marie Wilson

 |  March 12, 2010; 11:55 AM ET
Category:  Failures Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Look deeper. We'll see that the problem of sex is not about leadership but about repression.

I just wish the heterosexuals would come out of the closet. That would help a lot. If the strangle hold on the human spirit which our religions have would somehow be lifted we'd see a calming down of the sticky wicket that sex is for our entire culture.

Why in the world would you limit it to politics? Our leaders are only the projected figure heads for our own unintegrated personalities. We put these guys in charge. We put them in positions of authority and ask them to solve our problems. As products of our moronic attitudes towards sex they have no choice but to act out the very things we, as a culture, teach them.

Don't blame the politicians. Pity them. Solve the issue of sex for our society and we'll see leaders with appropriate sexual respones.

Posted by: Karmachoirboy | March 15, 2010 3:40 PM
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Zzim posts:
Aww, someone needs a hug? Manliness is too much effort, why can’t we all get along? Pathetic.
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I assumed the OP was a woman, actually. In any case, anyone with any kind of basic leadership training knows that sharing the spot light is not only an effective leadership trait, but simply smart.
Why would anyone prefer working for someone who refuses to recognize your worth and steals your ideas as their own, regardless of their plumbing?

Posted by: iamweaver
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Hi Weaver.

It’s not a matter of PREFERRING to compete with a jerk in the office, it’s a matter of being WILLING to fight for a place in a competitive environment. Tryreason looks for the easy way out. Tryreason shies away from competition and confrontation. Tryreason is easily dominated and/or brushed aside.

So I agree with you, Tryreason is either a woman or a wimpy man.

Posted by: ZZim | March 15, 2010 3:38 PM
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Question where has the Press been for over 200 years? Sex has always been going on within Govenment and the Law Makers. Rep. Mark Foley was protected while molesting kids for years and Senator Craig isn't the only closet gay. It took Karl Rove to use God as the Republican Poster to make these perverts come out along with the racist/KKK. Now you saw Dennis Hastert protect Foley and Pelosi did nothing about Massa. It took Rahm Emanul to come in and end the attacks on staffers. Yes Foley, Craig and even Massa will be back when a Republican President is in the White House. If you think these are the only low lifes serving in DC right now then your in the Twilight Zone. The Hill is full with closet guys and perverts hidding behind their title. The problem is the Obama Administration wont stand for this conduct but when Obama is out the sickos will come back. Remember those Law Makers who are against don't ask don't tell are gay themselves. Think of how the Hill would be cleaned out if Law Makers were asked if they were guy, rapist, child molesters, hiring prostitutes as it would be just a few Law Makers left on the Hill.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | March 15, 2010 3:35 PM
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I think you picked a pretty low bar (Rep. Massa) to make a subtle point, which is (as DH20003 says) shouldn't be bathed in cheap platitudes. Highly immature leaders can and do react to their own charisma like a wino reacts to cheap Thunderbird. But power affects everyone--to pretend otherwise is simply to be a Puritan or to lie to oneself (are those two things synonymous?)

Anyone in a leadership position--whether they're politicians, CEOs or even just plain teachers--must recognize that they hold tremendous power over others. Less mature individuals blur that power with their own need for sex, intimacy or love and treat it as one and the same. The failure to see that is what Jung would call a "shadow."

Mature people recognize that they carry these shadows with them all their lives and do their best not to ask subordinates, students or their staff make up for their own inadequacies. Less mature and clueless individuals live in la-la land, blame it all on the victim, call groping "tickling" and then break down in front of cameras when our Puritan culture forces them to admit their addictions in public. Had these people had a bit more self-awareness and self-love, they might not be making perfect asses of themselves on national TV.

Posted by: cbl55 | March 15, 2010 3:31 PM
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Thanks to politics I now know two terms that I could have done just fine not knowing....

Snorkeling and tea-bagging....

Posted by: willandjansdad1 | March 15, 2010 3:22 PM
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Most "leaders" are people trying to fill holes in their lives with the inflated self-worth that power brings. Part of that process involves abusing the people under their control, and sexual abuse is one facet of that.

Leaders who don't abuse their power are a rare commodity indeed. Most people spend their entire lives without encountering one, much less working for one.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | March 15, 2010 3:17 PM
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OK, the "preview" button > the "submit" button :p.

As far as the original article - I've seen plenty of sleazy bosses who attempt to intimidate their subordinates into sexual favors - but there's no sign of any kind of primal attraction there; mostly poor working women who can either deal with the INS, or put out.

Posted by: iamweaver | March 15, 2010 3:05 PM
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Zzim posts:

Aww, someone needs a hug? Manliness is too much effort, why can’t we all get along? Pathetic.
--------------------------------------------------

I assumed the OP was a woman, actually. In any case, anyone with any kind of basic leadership training knows that sharing the spot light is not only an effective leadership trait, but simply smart.

Why would anyone prefer working for someone who refuses to recognize your worth and steals your ideas as their own, regardless of their plumbing?

Posted by: iamweaver | March 15, 2010 3:01 PM
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Ohhhhhhh...so that's how I get a man. Thanks for the much needed advice. Working on my ambitions as I write...

Posted by: forgetthis | March 15, 2010 1:58 PM
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Ms. Wilson's piece is weird almost to the point of inappropriate. Humans are not primates and the underlying presumption that power heightens sexual potency is not generally true. Most inappropriate sexual behavior among those in power falls into one of 2 categories:
1. The advance is unwanted and the behavior is harassing in nature.
2. The non-powerful party is a particular kind of person that places value on gaining power through attachment to those in power. These relationships are typically of the use-use variety and lack any emotional depth.

Posted by: tds15 | March 15, 2010 1:54 PM
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I can understand Ms. Wilson's points, but I think the behavior isn't limited to public officials or anyone else entrusted to positions of power. These are just the indidents that we hear/read about. For better or worse, it's a human trait. I suppose we are to expect something different from our elected officials, priests, and executive management. But I think our indignation, feigned or otherwise, should be measured when it does.
If Tiger weren't married, I don't believe those registerring an opinion on the matter, or even he, would suggest that he seek "treatment" for his behavior.

Posted by: sanitycheck1 | March 15, 2010 1:41 PM
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you are all snorkler's and meat gazers

Posted by: j751 | March 15, 2010 1:18 PM
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People in authority should not use their position to exchange for sexual favors from subordinates, lobbyists, vendors, or others who might benefit directly from their decisions. Aside from that, people's sex lives are their own private business. If the public is going to judge politicians on the basis of what they do in private rather than what they do for the public, we're going to end up with less capable politicians.

Posted by: lartfromabove | March 15, 2010 12:11 PM
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theFieldMarshall says: “Hey Zimm, you SUMMED it! I have to give you a High five!

ZZim responds: Five back, Field Marshall! Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. This wimp can’t compete with the other men, so he wants to have a female boss who will spare him the effort of being a man among men:

Tryreason whimpers: “As a man I usually preferred having a woman for a boss because she usually was more result oriented and willing to work with subordinate's. Too many male bosses want to take sole credit for success. Women are more likely to share accomplishments with their team.”

ZZim: Aww, someone needs a hug? Manliness is too much effort, why can’t we all get along? Pathetic.

Posted by: ZZim | March 15, 2010 11:43 AM
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If powerful men are so weak maybe we should work harder to elect women. Not that women are perfect but it appears they can handle power much better than men.

Posted by: cpflast | March 15, 2010 9:29 AM
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CP, it’s not that “men are so weak”, it’s just that powerful men having enhanced access to young women is the natural order of things. It’s in the bones of the Human race, there’s no getting around it. It’s a fact that transcends culture, race, religion and historical era. The leader of the pack gets the girls. The girls want to mate with the top dog.

Often morality and Human nature are in conflict and when that happens, sometimes biology wins. It’s easy to understand.

Posted by: ZZim | March 15, 2010 11:33 AM
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This is an important topic which deserves more than thread-bare platitudes. To be powerful is first to be humble to the task, ability or title that you have risen to achieve. There are many reasons why powerful men pursue illicit relationships but the most relevant of all at the core of their actions is a feeling of self loathing and un-deservedness which creates a need for constant reassurance at every level. These are mostly boys in a mans suit who are good only at pleasing people. Look at the recent pantheon of cheaters that come to mind: Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Tiger Woods and other celebrities, none of whom would have your back in street fight. They are children who never grew up.

Posted by: dh2003 | March 15, 2010 11:18 AM
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Often, but not always, charisma is part of what propels men and women to leadership positions and that same charisma along with success and power IS what attracts some women to men and sex often follows. My God, there have been always political groupies, entertainment groupies, cop groupies, and on and on for years. There have also always been men AND women who have fed on that experience.

To suggest that it is a uniquely male phenomena is simply incorrect. The more frequently women find themselves in the position of power and influence, the more often they are being found to be equally prone to abusiveness, sexual hi-jenks, and overblown egos. The sooner we quit pretending specific genders, races, or nationalities have some sort of holy superiority over others, the sooner we can start promoting real equality. There are variations among us, but we are all equally flawed as a group. The only difference is the prevalence of opportunity for those flaws to shine publicly.

Posted by: MdLaw | March 15, 2010 10:21 AM
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Hey ZIMM, you SUMMED it! I have to give you a High five!

Posted by: theFieldMarshall | March 15, 2010 10:18 AM
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Obama is not listening to us. We are Democrats and we voted for him. We don't want his comprehensive but still unrevealed plans for "reforming" healthcare that does nothing to control our costs by controlling the price of insurance premiums that we pay. He is imposing a $675 penalty for being unable to pay for health insurance. He is burdening the Federal Treasury by paying out subsidies to young, rich people who happen to be making a low income now because they just got out of an Ivy League School and at age 21 their income is still low. He is making people with no jobs and no COBRA to pay and pay and pay.

If anything is a total sexual turnoff, it's power, if you think seriously about it.

Everyone who was ever turned on by the sight of the smoking, drinking shirtless President at the beach last year should think twice about their squandered vote and their personal finances before they think he's "hot" as your two gossip columnists at the Post called him at the time.

Nope, he is a complete and utter turnoff. Let's not vote at the polls for this man. That's the power we have.

Posted by: eyemakeupneeded1 | March 15, 2010 10:17 AM
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Power's usually an illusion. If a person lets their ego get all wound up with the illusion, they usually end up losing what they think of as power.

The fact of the matter is that it ends up costing a person more than it's worth most of the time.

Posted by: Nymous | March 15, 2010 10:17 AM
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As a man I usually preferred having a woman for a boss because she usually was more result oriented and willing to work with subordinate's. Too many male bosses want to take sole credit for success. Women are more likely to share accomplishments with their team. That unfortunately is changing.

Posted by: tryreason | March 15, 2010 9:51 AM
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Power corrupts.Sex is part of that corruption in a leader.

Posted by: improvista | March 15, 2010 9:49 AM
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Is this article insinuating that affairs are statistically more common among elected officials than the general public? Has that been proven?

Posted by: GD1975 | March 15, 2010 9:47 AM
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people look to gain power over others only when they are impotent in controlling what goes on between their own ears.

Posted by: boblesch | March 15, 2010 9:47 AM
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If powerful men are so weak maybe we should work harder to elect women. Not that women are perfect but it appears they can handle power much better than men.

I truely believe that the first questions that should be asked of anyone running for public office are the following:

Can you, do you, will you keep your pants zipped up?

Are your (and your family's) financial affairs in order and taxes paid?

Have you ever been accused of a crime or had a problem with drunk driving?

Do you know the difference between ethics and hypocrisy and corruption?

Any of these issues can be a great distraction and deprive us, the electorate, of the undivided attention needed to effectively do the business of representation in government.


Posted by: cpflast | March 15, 2010 9:29 AM
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If politicians wouldn't be so sanctimonious in matters of faith and sex, then they wouldn't be held up to such ridicule when they inevitably goof up. But this is also a reflection of the dumbazz electorate, who demand acid tests of their politicians. we get what we deserve.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | March 15, 2010 8:34 AM
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I would like to suggest that it is more a problem of powerful people to THINK they are sexually attractive, because everybody is nice to them, whereas in reality people still wash their hands frantically after physical contact with them.
For example, even if Massa was the king of the world, I doubt that anyone would find him seductive.

Posted by: chwurr | March 15, 2010 2:26 AM
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Marie, it was a good thing you didn't call back any of those city-council-groupies.

Only three kinds of guys consider professional power attractive in a woman:
1 - Wimps
2 - Serially-unemployed never-do-wells
3 - Guys who get off on the whole conquest thing

Creepy.

So, count your blessings.

Posted by: ZZim | March 12, 2010 3:44 PM
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