The saga of embattled New York mayoral candidate and former US Congressman Anthony Weiner has been chronicled minute by minute in print, online and on broadcast news channels.
While sex-related scandals involving politicians seem as old as politics itself, the story of Weiner’s sexting (most recently with Sydney Leathers) has a lesson for leaders in general, not just politicians.
The lesson is this: For some people, power can lend a false sense of invincibility.
And one doesn’t have to be a very powerful person to fall victim to this. It can happen to a high school football team captain as well as a captain of industry.
There are a variety of likely causes, from changes in brain chemistry to a tendency for people to so strongly believe they are doing the right thing they rationalize small indiscretions. And small indiscretions lead to larger ones.
If you’re a leader, how do you avoid falling victim to that false sense of invincibility?
1. Check your own values. Make sure you’re aware of your own values … what’s primarily important to you. You can find values checklists online or simply write down the core values you feel you possess and keep them front and center (literally — write them down and keep them on your desk) to remind you of them daily.
2. Encourage frequent feedback from others. By frequent, I mean daily. By feedback, I mean remaining open and appreciative for both positive and constructive comments about you, your behavior and how others perceive you. By others, I mean peers, family, friends, direct reports, supervisors, and other key stakeholders in your business. We all have a blind spot — that aspect of ourselves that is apparent to others but for many reasons not obvious to ourselves. Encourage others — and reward them — for letting you know what they see in you.
3. Join a Mastermind group. Business leadership can be isolating. Fewer people know what pressures you face. And that can lead you to exist in a bubble where it can be difficult to navigate the waters correctly, and not easy to share that with key stakeholders with whom you may not be able to confide. A mastermind group is a group of peers — outside of your own workmates — who help each other solve problems by sharing ideas, solutions, challenge and support. It can lower the isolation and let you measure the impact of decisions before you make them.
4. Take breaks. The constant pressure of leadership can impact your decision-making. Take weekends off (stop laughing). Schedule vacations in advance and go on them without letting others contact you except in emergencies. Take the time you need to relax and re-energize so that you will make decisions with a clear head and your values in mind.
5. Reduce your news intake. We are impacted by what we hear about others in similar situations. For some people, a constant intake of news about the indiscretions of other leaders can impact their sense of what the “norm” is, expanding boundaries or making once solid ones permeable. Cut down on the amount of news you read and focus, instead, on the world immediately around you.
Finally, in terms of Anthony Weiner, it may be tempting to judge him or feel like he “deserves” whatever happens as a result of this or some other feeling. Avoid it. Discard the negative thoughts. They serve no good purpose.
If anything, wish for him what you would wish for yourself — that he and those around him identify the root cause of what happened. learn from it and make the changes needed to live a better life.
Thoughts? Please post them below.