Why leaders trip and skid

By Prabhakar Timble
20 June 2011 20:32 IST


We mostly emulate leaders who stay at the crease and continue to groove. However, there is more to learn from leaders who slip, are caught unawares and unceremoniously return to the pavilion. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former Head of the IMF, charged for sexual assault, is the latest example of a high profile leader who lost his way.  Reputed judges have fallen from grace for as petty reasons as false expense reports to the latest revelation of K.G.Balkrishnan, ex-CJI as an “approachable” judge through his son or son-in-law. Lalit Modi did the incredible IPL and later was axed amidst fog of conflicting allegations.

The formidable N.D. Tiwari, three times UP chief minister and former governor of AP resigned for extra-marital affairs and exposure of bedroom stories. Shiny Ahuja, winner of Filmfare best debut award, went out of circulation for rape of his domestic servant. Kanimozhi, Raja, Maran and top executives of reputed companies are hauled behind prison bars for kick backs in the 2G scam. Suresh Kalmadi, Pune’s undisputable tiger lost his ethical bearings. The story of what undid Pramod Mahajan, who began as a sangh pracharak and amassed huge wealth is documented by his brother Pravin.  Ramlinga Raju, would have been a successful software entrepreneur, but would be remembered as the perpetrator of the country’s biggest corporate fraud.

Leaders in politics, sports, arts & entertainment, business, education, law and every profession you can name risk their untarnished standing for fleeting gains. Many may not come under the scanner of media or law enforcing agencies but they are aware of the unethical slippery path they adopt. Otherwise professionally successful with mastery over the keys of leadership, are utter failures in personal life and relationships and thereby ruin their future and retire in oblivion. They are not only cut off from the society which gave them power and recognition but also from their personal wealth including children, partners and friends.

Why does this happen? Does the elevated status puts them above the law and the respectable make disrespect to the law a rule? Or is it intoxication of power and recognition? Or is it the power of seductions and attractions which cannot be overcome once you experience the power of recognition and money? Actually, it is a combination of all of this.

When the room becomes quiet as you walk in, it’s the signal to be cautious. I feel it is a trap that leaders find difficult to navigate. Once they reach the top they do not listen to criticism, they are paranoid, they refuse advice, they mock people who advice. The best alternative is to stay connected with people who matter to you personally.

Barring very few exceptions, such leaders are not bad people. They do not begin with the end to cheat or fall in disgrace.  They come from good schools, good families and with good upbringing. However, they later come totally under the control of external rewards such as power, money and media recognition. They put the self as immortal heroes. This is the starting point of the fall.

There is a leaf to draw from the most influential management text by Robert Greenleaf “Servant Leadership---A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness”. The servant-leader is servant first and aspires to lead. People who desire to remain at the top truly balancing their professional and personal relationships would immensely benefit from this treatise.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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