Lead by Example


Yesterday I saw in the news that French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s ex-wife — the women he was married to when he was elected to office in 2007 — has just remarried in New York. This news comes after the recent story that Sarkozy himself has also just remarried after only two months of courtship with the former model and sometimes singer, Carla Bruni. This is Sarkozy’s third marriage. It is also the third marriage of his second wife. The French must love getting married!

Personally, I don’t play into those conservative games whereby we must know everything about our politicians’ pasts. I don’t care whether someone once did drugs or did something else improper while in college. Those do not determine character today. The question is: when does a leader’s management of his personal life reflect his ability to manage his professional life. My experience in life, to date, is that those who are unreliable in their personal lives are ultimately untrustworthy or instable as leaders in the workplace.

For example, when you see the president of a nation — a man empowered with the responsibility of sending citizens to war of executing the laws (which include marriage laws) — decide to get married after just two months of dating, you start to wonder what he bases important decisions on. Imagine, he must be pretty busy running the country, right? So when does he have time to court, fall in love with, and trust Carla Bruni. Maybe the answer is that marriage is not important to Sarkozy so he is able to make such spontaneous decisions. Maybe he so values marriage that he wants to get married as many times as possible. Whatever the answer is, as chief executive, he is sending a message.

Take former New York governor, the disgraced Spitzer as another example. How reliable as a leader or as a friend, father, or husband can he be when he puts his reputation and family’s dignity on the line in such a public way? Or take the most obvious example of former president Bill Clinton.  Did his personal life affect his ability to perform as a president? We probably will never know because it is hard to gauge many of the decisions that he made. But, I assume — and I believe this is the case of most ego-manics — he is incapable of perceiving himself as ever being in the wrong and can only express his “errors” when doing so is to his advantage. A leader who puts his own personal interests above those who theoretically depend on him will most likely put his personal interests above everyone else — including those who are also depending on him in a professional capacity.

In any event, I think that Sarkozy is a very illustrative example of what a leader tell us about how he conducts his personal life, makes important personal and even legal decisions (marriage is an important legal decision that involves the state), and how his entire thought and decision-making process works, not just on personal matters, but also on professional ones as well.

They say you’ll play the way you practice, and I do believe that the way we conduct our personal relationships ultimately reflects how we treat others professionally. It’s pretty hard, as in Sarkozy’s case, to argue that you make sound decisions when you’re publicly making risky personal commitments. Furthermore, it’s almost impossible to lead when you are consistently setting a different example. Character is character, regardless of whether it’s in the political, professional or personal sphere.


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Filed under Digressions, Essays

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