Leaders Behaving Badly, Cont.

The big news on Friday was the surprise resignation of Gen. David Petraeus as head of the Central Intelligence Agency after he admitted to an extramarital affair. In a statement announcing his resignation, Petraeus—a highly decorated veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—said: “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Mr. Petraeus wrote. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”

Not an hour after that story broke came an announcement from giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin that its CEO-to-be was also a goner for involving himself in a situation similar to Petraeus’. The company released a statement in which it said the board of directors had “asked for and received” the resignation of Christopher Kubasik, who had previously been scheduled to become CEO in January, after an ethics investigation uncovered evidence of an affair between Kubasik and a subordinate at the company.  He had been serving as vice chairman, president and chief operating officer. His replacement will be a woman: Marillyn A. Hewson will take over his current position and will become the new CEO in January.

While it’s unfortunate to see leaders like Petraeus, in particular, done in by poor judgment, these two resignations at least serve as a reminder to rank-and-file employees that ethical violations—at the CIA, indiscretions such as Petraeus’ could have left him vulnerable to blackmail—have consequences at the top of the pyramid, not just the bottom.