Employability and Misuse of Power

Michael Vick. Alberto Gonzales. Two drastically different people. Two high-profile individuals. Same gender but different ethnicities. Several things in common.

Both held press conferences this morning and made public statements about their professional actions that have come under scrutiny. Neither lingered to answer questions from the press. One resigned from office; the other anticipates that his career is essentially over.

But there, the similarities end. One announced he has found God. (Move over Paris Hilton!) One averred that he takes complete responsibility for his lack of discretion and needs to be more responsible, especially as a role model for young people. The other took no responsibility for the violations of which he is accused. One spoke of self-introspection and reflection indicating a need to discern where his errors in judgment occurred and why. Contrition was the tone in his voice. The other had no contemplation of such an endeavor. Bitterness was the tone in his voice. One acknowledged his position as a role model for youth who will be our future foundations of business and industry.

There was a third party in this morning’s press conference drama. That press conference bore many similarities to the first two. It was conducted by a high-profile personality who is male and is of yet another ethnicity. (It seems diversity was an underlying standard.) President Bush (the younger) had words to say about the resignation of his Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. Bush’s voice held agitated bitterness. He expressed resentment that his chosen one had endured such difficulties and questions of how he conducted himself in his role. He seemed to imply that both he and Gonzales are above scrutiny and answer only to theirselves — not to their employers. Bush also declined to wait for or answer questions from The Press.

Neither Bush nor Gonzales see theirselves as potential role models. Neither feels the term “accountability” applies to them.

Sports pundits project that Michael Vick will be out of sports for a time but will probably do a short stint in jail. They feel his sports career is not over. Indeed, the Falcons have chosen not to fire him but have put him on indefinite leave. The thing of it is, Vick can afford a protracted leave given his position and the millions of dollars salary he commanded. Provided he stays in condition by exercising and practicing in some manner during whatever length of leave he must serve, Vick will be able to return to the gridiron a little older, a lot wiser (if he is sincere with his spontaneous expressions of this morning), and ready to do a better job of managing his life.

With regard to Vick, it sounded as though he had several long conversations this weekend with several people who have a lot of influence over his life. Their counsel was obvious in the choice of words and phrases that emanated from the young man. A father’s voice could be heard. A coach’s utterances could be deciphered. A religious leader’s counsel could be discerned. And the judgment of a lawyer was also laced through his statement. It is obvious that he listened. Unlike Michael Tyson, Vick understood the essence of the advice from all. The apology was not empty. But the cynic inside of us wonders whether this statement (made minutes or hours before appearing in court today) were designed to gain a more lenient sentence in December. There is a sufficient span of time for that speculation to be sorted out.

Of more importance are the statements and lack of contrition, lack of self awareness, of Gonzales and Bush. No doubt Gonzales will be able to find another law firm where he can practice. But he will not be snatched up as quickly as he would like and he will have too much time to reflect on his actions. He will have time to rue the re-actions to his acts not only during his two and a half year tenure but the years of his association with President Bush (the younger).

Bush faces a similar time of introspection and reflection. Given the personality we’re dealing with, the consummate refusal to hold himself accountable to anyone, it seems his lessons will not be learned in even this lifetime. Again, given his position and pedigree, Bush will have no concerns about his retirement years.

But this leads to the next consideration. Although there are some who will probably be willing to take Gonzales as “of counsel,” how long will it take for him to become among the employed once again. And with regard to Bush, will he spend the remainder of his life as a retiree or will he have any type of career left?

Let me turn these last thoughts over to you. Would you hire any of these three men? If so, which one(s)? and If so, for what type of role in your organization?

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