Friday, June 19, 2009

Senator John Ensign: My two cents worth

I live in Nevada, so news that one of our US Senators, John Ensign, had an extra marital affair is big news. Senator Ensign was a rising star in his party, holding a top leadership post until he resigned it soon after admitting publicly to his affair.

So let me state the obvious – Senator Ensign screwed up. He made a terrible decision that showed tremendous lack of foresight, judgment, and respect for the people of Nevada that trusted him to have the integrity to represent them and advocate for their best interests. The leadership issue here is that he somehow felt exempt from the standards he rightly held others to. Unfortunately, that seems to be a pretty pervasive phenomenon these days.

He needs to hold himself accountable for his behavior, which in my opinion he appears to be doing. And we need to make sure he is held accountable.

Beyond that, we need to forgive the guy and move on to monitoring his job performance. Do good people do bad things? Of course they do. I do, you do, and we all do. Anyone that denies this is a big a hypocrite as Senator Ensign was when we was involved in his affair.

I don’t think the guy should be forced to resign unless we discover a broader pattern of bad judgment and behavior on his part. But the citizens of Nevada should give serious consideration to whether or not they want this guy to be a role model for leadership when he comes up for re-election.

Enough said – for now.


  1. You are so right when you said “There is always a reason why people behave the way they do at work.” On the other hand, at any place they happen to be at, they just do not understand why they did what they did. With some clear insight, we could have people behaving better; this could have some log term benefits for all. There is a new study on behavior called The Power of Self Separation this book contains a new understanding of personal behavior. I recommend it, try it, you will have a better understanding of who you are.

  2. I've never heard of the book that you recommend, but it sounds interesting. I appreciate you making me aware of it. For those that are interested, here is a link to the book.

  3. Re: Ensign Affair I believe that it is easy to judge when you are on the outside looking in. However, without knowing all the details, and we never will, one cannot condemn another for making a moral decision that is not in line with our own. We have laws that have to be upheld but when it comes to moral choices, I think we have free will and must live with our own conscience and consequences. It's a shame that private affairs (no pun intended) have to be played out in public. Does this affair make Ensign less effective in his role as Senator? How many leaders in various positions such as clergymen, politicians, instructors, etc. may have committed similar offences but their dirty laundry has not been aired publicly, therefore they are allowed to continue to do their jobs? How many of our forefathes engage in questionable activities but news didn't spread like it does in our times. I don't condone the behavior but take into consideration that we are after all human with all that implies.

  4. TR, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I too am not interested in judging Ensign the person. This is a blog on leadership, and that is (especially for politicians) practiced in public. I tried to limit my observations to how something like this impacts a leader.

  5. So, from a leadership standpoint. Quite different perspective. We definately hold our "leaders" up to higher standards. Unlike separation of church and state, when individuas take on such positions it is understood that public scrutiny is part of the territory. With power, not only comes responsibility but priviledge. Like athletes and rock stars, politicians have more than their share of indulgences and maybe a sense of entitlement and feeling that rules that apply to others don't apply to them. An average individual can maintain "good standing" when they are not tested. Easy to be a "good guy" when you are not exposed to opportunities in the form of temptations on a regular basis. So, we have high expectations of our leaders and when they don't meet our expectations we are disappointed. Should our disillusionment be blamed on our leaders or our own expectations?

  6. The standards are high for sure, but for good reason. And all those that enter the realm of leadership, especially the political realm, understand the standards full well. The bar is high for sure, maybe too high, but it is not ambiguous.

    And yes, followers too often also have an unrealistic view of leaders. I don't buy the leader as hero stuff, but I also don't buy the leader as scapegoat either. The truth is more complex - as it usually is.

    Thanks for your thoughts!