The unfortunate and sad news of recent extra-marital affairs in politics once again highlights the damage that can be done when a person in a significant position of leadership suffers a moral or ethical failure. The extent of the collateral damage of these actions remain to be seen, but this much is obvious – people can severely, if not irreparably, damage the trust and respect of those closest to them: spouse, children, staff, colleagues, and constituents. Can this trust and respect be restored? Yes it can, given the right amount of time and the willingness of people to humbly submit to the requirements they will face in rebuilding the bonds that have been broken. If anything, this incident should remind everyone in a leadership position how easy it is to suffer a fall from grace.
How do we protect ourselves from such failures? It’s a complex issue that is influenced by a person’s spiritual, mental, and emotional makeup, but we can ask ourselves a few simple questions that will help us to evaluate the impact of our decisions. Is it legal? Will this decision break any civil laws or company policies? Is it balanced and fair? Will this decision or action promote win-win relationships for those involved and is it fair to everyone in both the short-term and long-term? How will it make me feel about myself? If this decision or action was published on the home page of CNN, would I be proud? What would those closest to me think about it? Of course these simple questions won’t completely resolve all the moral and ethical dilemmas we face, but it certainly can put us on the right track.