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Michael Useem is a professor of management and the director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
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Character shattered is career ending

Question: Given the nature of the allegations and his past history, could Dominique Strauss-Kahn recover the credibility necessary to lead the IMF, or run for president of France, even if he were found innocent of last weekend’s sexual assault charges?

The accusations against IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn are stunning, and whatever the outcome of his arrest in New York on sexual-assault charges, they are surely career ending.

With a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Paris, Strauss-Kahn had had an extraordinary calling, with earlier service on a university faculty, in the French National Assembly, and as the French minister of economy, finance and industry. Then, as chief of the IMF, he was at the top of his game, with a campaign for the French presidency a realistic next step.

The blue-chip credentials of a long and distinguished career, however, cannot somehow make up for Strauss-Kahn’s alleged criminal behavior in a New York hotel on May 14. The report has so damaged his reputation that his service for the IMF is assuredly finished, as is any prospective service for his country.

Corporate executives who have fallen short of governing-board expectations have often recovered to lead another company. But executives who have fallen short on honorable behavior have not. Whatever their other leadership capacities, character shattered is career ending.

This piece is part of a discussion with our On Leadership panel of experts about the IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and whether his credibility is recoverable.

Click here to see our full discussion page, or dive straight into another expert’s perspective by following one of the links below:

Michael Maccoby: Servants not seducers

Michael Useem: Character shattered is career ending

John Baldoni: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the price of hubris

Warren Bennis: An extraordinary exception to the French media's typical languor

Marshall Goldsmith: DSK should never be an elected leader in France

Slade Gorton: Rehabilitation is nearly impossible for Strauss-Kahn

Michael Useem  | May 13, 2011 11:45 AM

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