Women: Do Male Leaders Have Boundary Issues?

Last Updated Mar 9, 2010 11:54 AM EST

There's a philosophical principal called Occam's Razor that essentially says the simplest solution is usually the right one. It's named after a 14th century Franciscan friar who spoke Latin, so forgive me if the translation's not entirely literal.

Actually, there's an old saying: "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck." Same thing.

Now, I'm as logical as the next guy, and I know I'm skipping at least a few evidentiary steps in drawing this completely subjective and nonscientific conclusion. But it sure looks to me like a ridiculously high percentage of male leaders have huge boundary issues. And women? Nope.

What do I mean by "boundary issues?" Well, I'm no shrink, so this may not be the most accurate technical definition. Also, the context is "leaders," not your average run of the mill adult or child. To me, boundary issues are when leaders cross moral and ethical lines that the rest of us would intuitively recognize as a bad idea. Simple.

Here are some recent examples:

  • Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, successive governors of the great state of New York. One couldn't keep it in his pants; the other allegedly threatened the abused girlfriend of one of his top aides.
  • N.Y. congressman Eric Massa is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for making unwanted advances toward a male staffer. He's married with two children and will apparently not be seeking reelection.
  • Then there's former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly trying to sell a senate seat, and John Edwards getting a woman pregnant while he's running for president and his wife is fighting cancer. I can go on and on with male politicians.
How about sports leaders? Tiger Woods. Too easy.

When it comes to business, the media calls it scandal, the lawyers call it fraud, but shrinks know it's all about narcissistic and boundary issues. Sometimes it almost seems like a prerequisite for the job.

Just look at the Galleon Hedge Fund case alone, ensnaring all these top executives in an alleged insider trading ring:

  • Former AMD CEO and Motorola president Hector Ruiz
  • IBM senior VP and possible CEO candidate Bob Moffat
  • Intel Capital managing director Rajiv Goel
  • Anil Kumar, a director at McKinsey & Co.
  • Ali Hariri, vice president of Atheros
  • Former Needham president Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon
What the hell were they all thinking?

Then, of course, there's Bernie Madoff, John Rigas and his three sons who systematically looted Adelphia shareholders of billions, Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz of Tyco, I can name dozens off the top of my head. All men.

But you know, I can only think of three women:

Sue Sachdeva, who allegedly embezzled $31 million from Koss. Martha Stewart, but honestly, that was peanuts. And Marion Jones, stripped of five olympic medals for steroid use.

Now, I know there are lots more men than women in top leadership jobs, but that's just a single digit factor. The "boundary issue" thing is more like two orders of magnitude difference. I'm sure there's a gender correlation.

So here's the thing. I've always felt comfortable writing about dysfunctional leadership behavior because I share so many of the same "issues," albeit without crossing any major ethical, moral, or legal boundaries. So I could see both sides. But when it comes to gender, hell, I'm a guy.

So I want to hear from all you women out there to help shed some light on this male-dominated phenomenon. Why do male leaders have all the boundary issues?