The Abdication of Leadership

by Ken Vincent, Featured Contributor

Abdication:  “Giving up a position or surrendering a right.”

We see it in the news almost daily.  The CEO of a large company gets charged with insider trading.  A religious leader is found to have had inappropriate relations with someone in the congregation.  A teacher is found to be dating one of the students.  A political figure is found to have been doing drugs or taking a bribe on the side.  Of course there are many examples in other fields like sports and entertainment.

There is then a brief public outrage and we go to the next social violation.

Do we hold people in these positions to a higher standard than others?  Should we do so?

I think that they should be held to a high standard of behavior and here is my logic.

A CEO of a public comLeadership1pany has been entrusted with investor money and that creates a right to demand the highest standard of ethics.

An educator is entrusted with the future generation and has an obligation to not just teach them a subject, but to set high personal standards by example.

A religious leader has to live his faith or he is a fraud.

A political leader is elected to protect the electorate by vote and act.

High profile sports and entertainment figures that are idols of the young owe them a good example of behavior.

Those violations of public trust make the news, but what about the owner of a small business, or the manager of one.  Do they have a mantel of trust upon them?  I believe they do.

When a leader/owner/manger employs others and serves the public the employees and the public have every right to expect those individuals to deal with them fairly and equitably.

Employees have a right to be treated fairly, given growth opportunity, and provided with a safe and healthy work environment.

The public has a right to receive the purchased product or service that was promised and at a price that represents a reasonable value.

In times of economic stress, as much of the world has been enduring recently, there is a great deal of pressure for leaders to compromise their ethical standards.  They do what is expedient at the time.

Abdication is not about standing up and saying, “I quit”.  Abdication is about failing to uphold one’s ethical standards and standing firm in the face of adversity.   Abdication is about doing the wrong thing, or failing to do the right thing.  It can be either active or passive, but it is abdication either way.

Do you agree that we are seeing an increase in the incidence of leaders abdicating?  Or are we just better informed when it happens, creating the impression that it is becoming more common?

Have you seen where the manager of your favorite restaurant has abdicated allowing the quality and service to slip?  Has your boss abdicated his role by not supporting the staff or offering inferior service or products?


Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.

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  1. I’m going with the increased reporting of humaness. People, us, are people and we get ourselves into deep doo dooo sometimes by getting hooked on the illusion of instant gratification etc. Yes, absolutely, when I take on a public position of leadership in that fish bowl, I really need to pay attention to my actions and the vast array of interpretations of my actions. Yup, comes with the territory.

    And in all of this where is ‘there by the grace of God go I’. It happens all the time. Is it ‘right’? Hell, that is the BIG question that I dare not ask as I am therefore putting myself under the same scrutiny. Public scrutiny is brutal stuff.

    I am grateful for those who willingly take on roles where public scrutiny is in play. Thank you

  2. Ken, great article.

    One of the delemmas a business must face is the implication of “correctness”. “The advertized product MUST be as good as they say or they wouldn’t say it” is something I’ve heard many people say after watching an effective commercial.

    With this comes the trust of the people, whether warranted or not. Business owners are put into a position where they are looked at as being in a position of power and esteem. They can no longer “fudge it” or fake their way through.

    Sure, many never see it this way but the ones that do; Walt Disney comes to mind amongst others, made sure to be above the fray and do what was right by his customers and his own personal standards.

    No abdication of leadership there.