Such crises now seem to arise on an increasingly frequent basis. Particularly in our political leadership which perhaps is not surprising in the adversarial system that it is at the heart of our party system of parliamentary democracy. But maybe there is now something new and troubling for all of us and more so for those in leadership roles.
The commentary in recent weeks about a range of sexual misconduct and behaviours that has led to resignations on the one hand and referrals for further investigation on the other is a reflection that leadership is judged by wide ranging criteria. It is about standards as the prerequisites for having a leadership mandate granted by followers and behaviours not necessarily related to current circumstances but which also reach back into a person's past. A time when they might have been different and what might have been tolerated was itself judged differently. Past norms are being re-evaluated and subject to current judgements in a whole variety of areas from monuments to sexual behaviour. This raises the bar (rightly many would say or just 'at last') for leaders to meet.
It is a privilege to have a leadership mandate from followers and that mandate has to be regularly tested against observed behaviour and renewed. Past behaviour as an indication of attitude and character is taken into that renewal process. These days with the power and immediacy of our information platforms everything is on the record and stays there. A belief in the value of transparency results in few things remaining confidential. This is a new context. All leaders need to take this into account and particularly those offering to serve publicly. We expect and hold these leaders to higher standards. Is this right? Actually it doesn't matter it applies anyway and anyhow!
Potentially this makes leadership almost impossible. Maybe it is and Social Media and the enduring nature of information are key aspects of this new difficulty. All this means a real focus on training for leadership is required. It is not something that can be taken on lightly. This must be a good thing. We need not just inspiring leaders (although we certainly need those) we need those skilled in managing the current (and somewhat new) context for leadership and an appreciation of the standards expected.
Maven's Leadership Vault framework has as its first two criteria (from the 2-3-4 model) the need for leadership to be ETHICAL and EFFECTIVE. That surely is a great starting point for developing the self-awareness essential to these roles. (The next Leadership Vault Workshop is in March 2018).