Dangers of the “Achievatron”: How Success Fosters Bad Behavior

Even before the ruinous prostitution scandal involving New York Governor Eliot Spitzer hit full force last week, pundits had churned out chapter and verse analyzing why this talented and high-achieving man would squander his political capital and leadership potential so recklessly. (Spitzer’s resignation is official today.)

Most of the explanations were trite: “naked hubris”; “power corrupts”; “just plain stupid,” and on.) But David Brooks of the New York Times takes a deeper consideration of why the most talented and successful among us, those who achieve “Bigness,” sometimes behave very badly.

…our social structure seems to produce significant numbers of people with rank-link imbalances. That is to say, they have all of the social skills required to improve their social rank, but none of the social skills that lead to genuine bonding. They are good at vertical relationships with mentors and bosses, but bad at horizontal relationships with friends and lovers.

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Eliot Spitzer: Leadership Has No Sacred Cows


“Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an e-mail.”Eliot Spitzer, (then) Attorney General, New York State.

This is what New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had to say in late 2005, the year before he became NY governor, when I asked him for a contribution to Business2.0 magazine’s annual My Golden Rule feature, a collection of “life lessons” from admirable leaders worldwide.

Spitzer’s contribution was popular with my B2.0 editors — playing, as it did, off the raft of corporate criminal trials taking place across the country at that time (Martha Stewart, Frank Quattrone, Tyco, Worldcom, Adelphia, Enron).

Now The New York Times has broken the story that Spitzer has been linked to a high-end prostitution ring. People were expecting a resignation yesterday, bringing to a cataclysmic end what was — only a few years ago — one of the most respected legal and political careers in the country. The great irony here: Spitzer was caught in the FBI’s dragnet thanks to some taped phone calls and a few unseemly text messages authored by, none-other-than. Read More about Eliot Spitzer: Leadership Has No Sacred Cows