Leadership, Ego, Delusion -- and Trust: L'affaire Weiner

In this era of unscripted TV, we seem to be deluding ourselves into believing that the willingness to endure public humiliation is tantamount to leadership. Perhaps this is why Anthony Weiner doesn't seem to think that his latest revelation disqualifies him for public office. But true public leadership is not a reality show: No more do-overs for Anthony Weiner.

Maybe Weiner has the potential to be a good leader in his next life. I really think he's trying, and I actually think he's a guy I could hang out with -- up to a point. But clearly, he's not ready for leadership in any form in the life he's living now. It's not so much a question of the number of "strikes" in this particular "at bat." It's really more fundamental than that. What is leadership if not the ability for us to trust? And trust, of course, is a quality that must be earned, as well as a responsibility that must be upheld.

Weiner had a stellar opportunity to turn an agonizing defeat into a personal and political victory by successfully pivoting on his public disgrace, and working to build -- perhaps for the first time in a very tangible way -- the trust that is a prerequisite for statesmanship. I, for one, was beginning to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought his re-entry campaign spot was well-crafted. He didn't deny or ignore the past: he promised to do better. America loves its repentant sinners. They remind us of our flaws, and inspire us by their willingness to own their mistakes, and to struggle through to eventual success (e.g. Robert Downey, Jr -- yay!). But they have to follow a straight line. They have to move in a consistent direction and hit their milestones.

Anthony Weiner seems to have a different, if fractured, outlook. Weiner is clearly a moral relativist -- not unlike his wife's mentor's husband. He does not seem to understand what leadership is about. My sense is that for him, leadership is narrowly about ideas, policy, organization and communication. It's about getting things done. He seems to be separating the personal character from the personal effectiveness, not understanding that they are completely tied together. How can you a) get good people to work with/for you, and b) get constituents to support you, if you aren't willing to make difficult, decisive and irrevocable choices about how you're going to live your life. Weiner just doesn't get it, and clearly his wife, who is similarly smart and accomplished, didn't (and doesn't) get it either. Anthony Weiner is clearly the poster child for a certain clueless expediency, a state of being that does not correlate actions with values, or commitments with accountability. It's sad, actually, that this bright, attractive couple with everything to live for, and every opportunity in front of them, would squander their lives/careers in this web of denial.

An elected official, or any leader, whether of families, small teams or large organizations, has signed up for more than just being an effective manager. We have to believe in them based on our experience of them, not on what they say to us. We have to know that they are going to approach their job consistently, and that they're not going to circle back and bite us in the butt. So was John Kennedy a philanderer and a rat with women? It appears so. But he played tough and hit hard and made no bones about it. He was clear and consistent and his team loved working for him. I tend to doubt that City Hall under Mr. Weiner would be similarly run.