Blago Meets the Widow Maker

Yesterday, a jury convicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich of numerous acts of corruption, including 17 counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion, soliciting bribes, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes.

This isn’t an admirable accomplishment, and Blagojevich might have saved himself some grief if he’d been diligent about applying what Peter Drucker called the “mirror test,” something we’ve highlighted before. As Drucker explained it: “Ethics requires that you ask yourself, What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”

But, then again, some people quickly get used to what they see in the mirror (as Blagojevich’s famous hair suggests). And maybe what they’re seeing doesn’t look so strange to them. Many observers have noted that Blagojevich is only the latest in a line of Illinois politicians with prison time on their résumés.  In fact, four of the past seven governors of Illinois have been convicted of felonies.


Rod Blagojevich

Drucker wrote of what he called “widow makers,” or those “jobs which manage to defeat one good manager after the other—without any clear reason why.” Such positions, Drucker added, “seem to be logical, seem to be well constructed, seem to be do-able—yet nobody seems to be able to do them.”

While we certainly wouldn’t characterize Blogojevich as a “good manager,” could governing Illinois be an example of what Drucker was describing? A recent Chicago Magazine article on the tenacity of corruption in Illinois placed some of the blame on underlying factors, calling the state “the Wild West of campaign finance” and faulting a historically “labyrinthine governmental structure that offered fertile ground in which corruption could sprout.”

[EXPAND More]“Whenever a job defeats two people in a row, who in their earlier assignments had performed well, a company has a widow maker on its hands,” Drucker wrote. “When this happens, a responsible executive should not ask the headhunter for a universal genius. Instead, abolish the job. Any job that ordinarily competent people cannot perform is a job that cannot be staffed. Unless changed, it will predictably defeat the third incumbent the way it defeated the first two.”

Is Blagojevich fully to blame for his troubles? Or does the state of Illinois have some version of a “widow maker” on its hands? [/EXPAND]