General Petraeus, Leadership and Why Adultery is Never Private

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How does having an affair impact a leader and his or her leadership? Thom Rainer observes and comments on our culture’s varying attempts to answer this question.

It’s somewhat surprising that the media is making a fuss about the David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell affair.

After all, adultery is normative according to most media standards.

This time, however, there is the potential damage of compromising highly sensitive security information. And there are the unanswered questions of “Who knew?” and “When did they know?”

But the spectacle does raise the question: What is the impact on a leader and his or her leadership when he or she is involved in an affair?

I have been disgusted as I heard different pundits attempt to answer this question.

It’s Not a Private Matter

The typical perspective regurgitated about the Petraeus and Broadwell affair is that, outside of the security concerns, it’s really no big deal. After all, it is argued, this relationship is a private matter between two consenting adults.

That’s garbage.

It is not a private matter. Their two spouses are undoubtedly wounded and humiliated. Children are innocent victims who try to grasp with the strains and perhaps destruction of the secure world they knew when all was well with their parents. Other family and friends are hurt as well.

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One television commentator this week cheered the actions of adulterous men, celebrating their testosterone levels and manhood. One is left to wonder if he would cheer similar actions of his own wife, and celebrate her own hormonal drives and femininity with other men.

It’s Not Endemic to All Great Leaders

I have heard more than one pundit opine that uncontrolled sex drives are just part of the nature of great leaders.

They have such a great drive, we are told, that it is only natural that such drives include unfettered desires for sexual conquests.

I even heard a commentator cite adultery as a common characteristic of our great American presidents. The more anemic presidents tended to be those who were faithful to their wives.

Thom Rainer Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.

More from Thom Rainer or visit Thom at http://www.thomrainer.com

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