Leaders – Lapses in Judgment

by  Will Lukang  |  Leadership Development

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.

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About The Author

Articles By will-lukang
A dynamic, multi-faceted Information Technology Leader who demonstrates expertise in translating business needs into technology solutions that meet business objectives while developing strategies to optimize processes that improve efficiency and reduce costs. A certified coach, speaker and training from John Maxwell Team. A co-author of The Character-Based Leader.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  29 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Will, thanks for the great post. Because I notice the differences between positional authority and character-based leadership, I also notice them in your post.

Sometimes we reach positions of authority because of our performance rather than who we are. People give us the position, authority and influence because of our performance. Whether or not we get the influence through our character or our performance, we choose to kick it into overdrive and let our position maintain our authority and influence and we drop our guard on the character front.

As a result, our selfish nature takes over. We stop giving over and above the call. The energy and life that once came from our leadership is gone. As a result, our contributors must fend for themselves too. And all of the life is sapped from our leadership. The end result is some scandal or empty effort – no character-based servant leadership, no life. It’s simple, yet profound that we see so many examples every day.

Thanks for your excellent post that reminds us 6 ways to stay on track. I appreciate it.


Jon M  |  29 Jun 2011  |  Reply


Very insightful post! Being self-aware is essential, and it is often missed when people reach certain levels. Although we are all human, it does not dismiss the need for standards of conduct.

One element I would add is accountability. There is degree of self-accountability that needs to be present. Additionally, we all need friends who will hold us accountable and challenge us. We need to have these type of people in our networks, and we need to engage them proactively as well.

Thank you for post and insights!


Will Lukang  |  29 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Hi Jon,

You brought up a good point about being accountable. Leaders also need to surround themselves with people they can trust to help remind them to be true to themselves.


Jim Fierce  |  29 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Such a great and timely post. There are so many examples of so called leaders that are so full of themselves that they forget their purpose and calling. It’s sad because most of the ones who fall hard have been given a gift that most of us would cherish if we had it. If that gift were used for good instead of just for personal benefit our society would be so much better for it. I believe this problem is so prevalent in politics today (in both parties) and corporate America that our country is at risk. I’m not sure how we can start steering this ship away from the iceberg.

Will Lukang  |  29 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Hi Jim,

I believe greed is partly to blame for it. Some leaders end up putting their own agenda ahead of everyone else. As a result, they failed to do what is right for their constituents. Being self aware is essential in safeguarding ourselves from mental lapses.


Susan Mazza  |  29 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Excellent Will. Being self aware is clearly essential to keeping our integrity in tact as we rise on the ladder of success. One way to make sure we don’t forget is to continue to surround ourselves with people who will keep us honest and humble. If all we are hearing is accolades chances are we don’t have a balanced view of ourselves. We are after all human!

Ernest Dieteman  |  12 Sep 2011  |  Reply

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