The Bathsheba Syndrome


The inability to cope with and respond to the by-products of success is labeled the Bathsheba Syndrome, based on the traditional account of King David. The story of King David getting ‘corrupted by power’ leading to his eventual ignominy is extremely pertinent for leaders of today.  We have numerous examples in the recent past – Dominique Strauss-Kahn accused of sexual assault on a Sofitel Hotel housekeeping employee, Rajat Gupta’s insider trading scandal on Goldman Sachs stock, etc…  


The unethical behaviour in such situations comes from a combination of reasons.  First, success often allows managers to become complacent and to lose focus, diverting attention to things other than the management of their business.  Second, success, whether personal or organizational, often leads to privileged access to information, people, or objects.  Third, success can inflate a manager’s belief in her personal ability to manipulate outcomes.  This is one of the most fundamental lessons in leadership from mythology.

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