I can’t help but comment on the recent news about Elliot Spitzer, Governor of NY and former prosecutor of such high profile cases as Dick Grasso, former CEO of the New York k Stock Exchange. Mr. Spitzer had promoted himself as the protector of the small guy against those corrupt corporate executives. His whole public image was one of righteous indignation against the human failings of others.
There is a saying that what goes around, comes around, and many people are gloating over Mr. Spitzer’s fall this morning. I am not one of them. Yes what goes around comes around, but not in the sense many people are talking about in the papers today.
When we act from righteous indignation towards others, something will come along in our lives where we are brought to our knees humbled by a discovery of our shortcomings. Whether it is Elliott Spitzer or Ken Lay or bill Clinton, arrogance, is followed by humiliation. This is what Mr. Spitzer is experiencing as we speak. While he is doing this on the screen of public scrutiny, it is a lesson I had to experience in my life as well. Fortunately my arrogance and righteous indignation did not require my humiliation phase to be paraded in front of the public in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. I was able to learn its lessons in a more private way.
What we tend to forget about our leaders is that they are, first and foremost, human beings.
Not one of us is perfect and we all have our shortcomings, and our leaders are no different. Perhaps it is our failing that we expect our leaders to be perfect. There is a Buddhist saying that the disciple has advanced when he accepts the fallibility of his Guru. Even the founders of our country understood that all people were fallible and so designed our system of government to have the checks and balances that protect the society overall.
Perhaps the real lesson in scandals of failed leadership is for the followers to better understand the role of a leader, a role that is far less than an all knowing “God”.
But let me not end here for there is an equally important lesson for leaders – stop pretending you are the all knowing “God”. Accept your own humanness and more importantly accept the humanness of those you lead. This ability to know yourself as human and others as human is to know compassion and compassion brings about humility; humility engenders authenticity which in turns brings about the trust a leader needs to truly lead.