Leadership merits a higher standard. Whether embracing the mantle of public figure, voice of a movement, millionaire athlete, or mom, leaders are people others watch. A higher standard is an implied contract with the position. Perhaps it is unfair, but I submit that the best leaders among us will always welcome this aspect of leadership and seek to present themselves well, imperfect though they will inevitably be.
Consider Lance Armstrong. He has been the face of cancer survivors for years, and there can be no doubt that his Livestrong foundation has done great things for people who are fighting that arduous battle, but his protestations of innocence and virulent attacks against his accusers in light of mounting, and now overwhelming, evidence for all those years has tarnished his legacy, his credibility, and his integrity. He has done precious little to embrace the mantle of leadership. Even if he did not want it (remember the commercials with Charles Barkley? “I’m not a role model!”), it comes with the territory. One cannot be the face of a movement and yet eschew a higher standard. Fair or not, it is reality—a reality that must be embraced if one is to lead well.
Regrettably, Armstrong has failed to understand this. He will, no doubt, be forgiven and remain in the public eye. While we should not withhold forgiveness and reconciliation from the contrite, we would do well to choose our heroes more carefully, and, having done so, to hold them to higher standards.