When a Leader You Know Falls from Grace

It happens to all of us at some point.

We know someone who falls.  I'm not talking about Tiger Woods or former HP exec Mark Hurd although both suffered terribly as a result of the choices they made.

No, I'm talking about the people that you and I know, the "folks" as Bill O'Reilly likes to call them.  The people who do their own grocery shopping.  Those that are on the sidelines at their kid's soccer game.  The ones who know exactly how much their mortgage payment is.

The regular people like you and me. And it hurts to see one of them suffer a personal or professional fall from grace.

Last week, President Obama commented on the many "falls" he witnessed as Republicans took control of the House and many Democrats were shown the door.  When asked how he felt to see friends lose their jobs, he said

“The toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve anymore, at least in the short term.”

These are the kinds of falls that can only be considered falls by association.  Many disliked the President and thus lumped in other Democrats with the President on election day.

It's the other kind of fall that hurts the most.  A personal fall due to a lack of judgment and it happens all of the time.  These include but aren't limited to:

  • Improper use of funds

  • Addiction

  • Infidelity

  • Reckless lifestyle

  • Dishonesty through spoken word

And many more.  Many times, these start as small actions which then replicate.  Over time, they create a body of work that then results in scandal and true fall from power.  So what can you do when someone you know falls from grace?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Talk about it. With your friends and family and with those in the organization, talk about it.  Help people emote and express what they feel.  Create ways for people to process what's happened.  They're talking about it anyway so why not join the conversation and help others process in a constructive way?

  2. Encourage the person you know. Through a personal note, an email or simply through prayer, encourage your friend in the time of greatest need.  You're not condoning their behavior, simply acknowledging their humanity.

  3. Help the organization deal with the Elephant in the Room. By precise communication and honest assessment of what's happened, you can help your organization deal with what's happened.  The key is to not ignore the incident(s) but to deal with them in a thoughtful way.  Everyone is talking about it so the last thing you want to do is be seen as someone who is ignoring the Elephant in the Room.

  4. Ensure that it never happens again. As money is often involved in scandal, it's critical to ensure that a thorough evaluation takes place of company protocols.  If technology is involved, proper firewalls and policies are vital to protect the company and everyone within the organization.  Finally, a solemn pledge with the key decision makers is helpful in order to tell the world that what occurred will not happen again.

  5. Refocus on what's truly important. A friend of mine recently had to leave his post in scandal.  We all feel badly for him and yet his poor decisions do allow the rest of us to focus on what's really important in our faith and in the organization.  In the Christian world, we get hung up on leaders when we should be focus on Christ.

What have you found to be helpful when someone you know falls from grace?

*Photo by markgoodwin