Over the last month and a half, two things caught my attention, namely the scandal with former IMF chief Dominique Strauss and the precipitous fall of former Congressman Anthony Weiner. Each of them has a long history of service in their respective fields and was well respected by their constituents.
What happened? What caused them to have a lapse in judgment? Before their respective incidents, I viewed them as leaders because they have a lot of followers. A person is a leader only if people are willing to follow him/her. People are willing to follow because they respect the person and know that he/she has what it takes to lead them to where they need to be. In essence you can effect change and make a difference.
In analyzing the situation, from my vantage point, some leaders who made it all the way up sometimes feel that they can do anything. It seems that their power or authority gets in their head, instead of staying humble and reminding them that what they are doing is a blessing. I believe that the problem is failure to focus on being self-aware. By not being self-aware, they failed to audit their actions. There is a tendency to fall in the trap of thinking you can do whatever you want without repercussion for your actions and behavior.
This is similar to Tiger Woods’ situation. He’s popular and everybody adored him. He did admit that he thought because of his power, wealth and influence, he could do anything he wanted and lost sight of what he is all about in the first place.
How can a leader prevent mental lapses from happening?
- Be honest – always remember your roots. Title, designation and authority are all temporary. They can easily be taken away from you if you don’t show that you are responsible. Always remember that you cannot get away with a lie. Truth will eventually come out and you have to answer to all your constituents.
- Be self-aware at all times – it is important that you audit and think through things before you do something. Remember that you’re a role model.
- Remember that as a leader you’re serving your constituents – great leaders never put their agenda ahead of anyone else. They always keep in mind that they are there to serve their constituents.
- Remember your core values – It all goes back to your upbringing. When it does not feel right, it is not right. You can do something wrong and justify that it is right. Let your core values drive your actions.
- Do not compromise – sometimes people can fall into the trap of doing favors. It starts with small favors and then eventually it becomes a big favor that ends up compromising their position
- A position of authority is not a free ticket to do anything you want – you’re given the authority because you’re responsible. If you don’t know how to take care of your responsibility, then you’ll lose it.
Be grounded and humble. Don’t forget the reason why you’re a leader and what the purpose of your leadership is. With all the attention and accolades that you’ll get, you need to stay close to those people who are close to you because they will keep you grounded and provide you with good feedback. In the end, you need to be self-aware at all times. Don’t let your success get into your head. Each day take the time to remember your purpose and remember your roots. By doing so, it will keep your actions in check.