[January 14, 2014] In the U.S. national news lately we have seen what many call a “corruption of leadership” because senior leaders have considered hiring or currently employ “tainted” leaders to assist them. Basic leadership requires the establishment of trust and confidence with whom we associate.
When leaders employ or consider employing other tainted leaders, this can put their organization and good associates at risk directly due to loss of this trust and confidence in their abilities to do the right thing.
One high-level and recent scandal is the nomination of a person to lead one of the U.S. Justice Department’s divisions. This nominated individual has been a key supporter of a movement to free a “celebrated” cop-killer, not because of the cop-killer’s guilt (which is proven), but because of the killer’s race.
Another noteworthy example is the scandal involving the closure of lanes to a key bridge causing massive traffic jams. One or more of a governor’s senior aides allegedly pushed for these closures as a form of political payback because one of the state’s mayors did not endorse the governor in his last and successful election.
When senior leaders consider selecting or employing others as part of their team who have questionable histories, especially involving ethical errors in judgment, then the senior leader and their organization is tarnished.
It is one thing to have a previously ethical employee behave improperly at a later time. It is another to consider hiring one who is already tarnished. The solutions are not easy in either case, but necessary.
When considering employment of someone in an important position, it is necessary to ensure that such a person has not acted improperly in the past, engaged in activities that could embarrass the organization, or has lost trust and confidence with those they will work with.
When an employee of the senior leader behaves in an unethical, illegal, or immoral way, then it is the obligation of the senior leader to remove them as quickly as possible. Whether this means retraining or termination from their job depends on the circumstances but it does mean removal from the job leading others.
Sadly, in both circumstances there is a tendency for some senior leaders who lack the relevant experiences and moral courage to fail to do the right thing. We see this most salaciously in political leaders. For many of them, the decision is simply too difficult …
For the best leader, the solution is straightforward – remove the offending leader or do not hire the tainted leader.