Dominique Strauss-Kahn: past behaviour predicts future behaviour

Posted May 18, 2011 in Communication, Latest News & Insights

Arnold Schwarzenegger father’s a love child? IMF Chief Dominque Strauss-Kahn charged with attempted rape?  It’s at times like this that I shake my head and wonder “what the hell is going on?”  Are these the kinds of leaders that we’re looking for to head up our organizations?  And, especially in the case of Strauss-Kahn, who promoted this guy in the first place?  It’s time we started stepping up and getting real about the responsibilities we, as leaders, have towards promoting lousy talent and to remember a golden rule used by recruiters: past behaviour predicts future behaviour.

 After an affair with an IMF staffer back in 2008, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was quoted as saying:

 “The personal behaviour of the managing director sets an important tone for the institution. I am committed, going forward, to uphold the high standards that are expected of this position.”

 Um… ok… I’d love to see the core organizational values for the IMF that someone make it ok to assault women in hotel rooms.  And, of course, the incident in 2008 wasn’t the first one.  DSK (as he’s known in France) was (like Schwarzenegger) a known womanizer (his nickname was The Great Seducer!).  You don’t get that reputation because you open doors for ladies in restaurants.  You get that reputation because you’re exhibiting behaviour that is sleezy and inappropriate.

Which leads to my point here… this kind of behaviour doesn’t just happen overnight.  This is a pattern of behaviour that exists and, as power and influence increase, become more evident as the leader gets bolder and more full of themselves.  Which begs the question… where were DSK’s former bosses early on in his career?  Why were they allowing this behaviour to continue?  And, why, was he continually rewarded with promotions and increased power?   Here’s the “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist” answer:

“He is one of the most impressive public servants I have ever seen.” says Robert Shapiro, chairman of Sonecon LLC, an economics consultancy and member of one of DSK’s advisory committee.

Gee… glad to hear that.  Here’s another classic case of bad behaviour being allowed to be tolerated because someone’s a strong performer in other ways.  I rolled my eyes when I read a comment on the case that said that the problem for board’s (like the one that the IMF director reports to) is that it’s often difficult to confront CEO’s on this type of behaviour.  Oh bullsh*t.  This is the job of leadership, and the Board members are the de facto “leaders” of this type of organization… the chair reports to them.  And, they have a responsibility to manage performance based on not just WHAT their designate is doing for the business, it’s also about HOW they’re doing it.

The board of the IMF should get called to task for their absolute lack of action on dealing with prior issues brought to their attention (dating back to 2002).  Now a woman’s been sexually assaulted as a result of their negligence in addressing DSK’s inappropriate and abusive behaviour.

Which leads me to you, dear reader.  This DSK debacle can happen to all of us.  It is so easy, as leaders, to fall into the trap of having a star performer on our teams who is delivering the numbers (which, let’s face it, is what’s allowing us to make our targets and get our bonuses) while abusing people around them.

Leadership is about looking at BOTH sides of the employee balance sheet – not just the “what” but the “how”.  Leadership is not about making excuses for bad behaviour as a way to protect our own personal short-term interests. As this debacle demonstrates, the consequences of allowing behaviours like those demonstrated by DSK can be catastrophic.  Ignoring the behaviour and, worse, condoning it through continual promotion and advancement is NOT what great leadership is all about.

As leaders, we always have a choice.  We can leave a legacy of amazing talent, a better workplace and a better world.  Or, we can be greedy and self-serving and ignore bad behaviour as long as we’re lining our pockets.  It really is a personal choice.  (Not always an easy choice I acknowledge, but always a choice.).  I know what type of leader I’m striving to be.  How about you?

Happy leading!

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