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Graham’s gutsy moral performance

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers

When Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham made the decision to pursue a story about a “third-rate burglary” at the Watergate complex, she could not have known that it would lead to a two-year hunt ultimately incriminating Richard Nixon. Or that it would put her moral leadership on the map.

The Post was alone in reporting Watergate for so long that Graham was constantly asking herself, “If this is such a hell of a story, then where is everybody else?’’

She never backed down, even though the licenses of two of the company’s television stations were challenged and Graham was threatened with unspecified retaliation. Instead, she set out and reinforced the rules The Post would follow as it worked on the investigation.

Lesson: Most challenges that feature moral issues are not that clearcut, and the embedded situations can go on for a long time without resolution. Great leaders cultivate a tolerance for ambiguity.

—Adapted from “Teaching the Moral Leader,” Sarah Jane Gilbert, Working Knowledge.

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