The First Clue in Character: Is Bob Woodward Wayward?



If a manager was going to make a new hire, there would be a number of reference checks. But there is one kind of background check easy to do and often overlooked.

And the candidate himself is the source.

Yes, the best indicator of future performance is past performance.

But there is more.

Permit Your Business Blogger to use Bob Woodward as a brief case study on avoiding a questionable hire.

Rich Galen tells us the backstory on Woodward:

Bob Woodward appears to have lied. By omission and commission.

Bob Woodward. A name which is spoken by other reporters in the hushed tones generally reserved for recently deceased Popes by Catholic priests and nuns: Bob Woooodwaaaard.

But now we come to the Plame affair. The story is now well-known. Rich writing at Mullings reports:

In 2003 someone leaked the name Valerie Plame to Bob Novak who wrote a column about the fact that (a) she was Joe Wilson’s wife and (b) worked at the CIA. It has never been clear that this was a crime.

In the current matter, someone had told Woodward about Valerie Plame a month or so before someone (we don’t know the identity of the someone or someones) had told Novak about her.

However, Woodward’s character begins to show:

But Woodward decided to hide that fact from everyone including his editor because, “I didn’t want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.”

So, Woodward hid substantive facts from his editor at the Washington Post…

Rich concludes:

The Washington Post has a highly regarded national security affairs reporter named Walter Pincus who was subpoenaed to, and did, testify before the grand jury.

Woodward allowed a colleague be dragged into the fray, but hid his own knowledge so his shoes didn’t get muddied.

What a guy.

Woodward is clearly not a team player. But how would a hiring manager know this?

The question to ask is: who is Woodward’s hero? Who did he choose to understudy for?


Ben Bradlee

Early in his career, Bob Woodward worked for Ben Bradlee, who was the executive editor of The Washington Post. During Watergate.

Bradlee taught Woodward all the tricks of the trade. And less.

Bradlee had no little influence on Woodward at The Washington Post.

So who is Bradlee, this key influencer?

A little-known vignette about Bradlee revealed that he confessed that he would have printed the WWII D-Day invasion plans if he had known about them.

His dedication to the “scoop” and ambition toward getting a Pulitzer were more important than the lives of American soldiers.

Safe to say — Bradlee has an unusual value system.

And Woodward appears to have learned from his old boss all too well.

During your next series of interviewing candidates, ask them simple backgrounders.

“What was the worst character flaw of your past mentor or boss?”

The purpose is not to focus on what the superior did wrong. But in how long the student/subordinate tolerated, or even, heaven forbid, approved of the deviant behavior.

The best answer I ever heard on this question, as a matter of character evaluation, went something like this, from my friend Bill Oncken:

Interviewer: “Is there anything you did not like about your previous boss?”

Interviewee: “…He had problems lying about expense reports… it got so bad we were asked to cover for him.”

Interviewer: “How long did you put up with this?”

Interviewee: “I didn’t; I quit when he asked me to sign off on some funny stuff…”

Interviewer: “You quit with no job to go to?”

Interviewee: “Yes.”

The interviewee saved up — not just for a rainy day — but for an unforeseen tragedy. He was able to fund his belief system. He could fund his integrity.

And left behind a crooked influencer in his life. He was looking for something better.

The measure of a man is made in his mentor.

Woodward’s style and actions come as no surprise when we look at the traits of his teacher, Bradlee.


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Thank you (foot)notes:

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Generation Why has Scandal and analysis.

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