"I Screwed Up."

That’s what Barack Obama said more than two weeks after becoming the US president. I take responsibility for this mistake… It’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules — you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.

His top nominees brought about this “I am sorry” episode. Timothy Geithner, his pick for Treasury secretary, had been compelled to pay US$34,000 in overdue income taxes. Geithner, later on confirmed by the Senate, oversees the Internal Revenue Service. Two other presidential nominees withdrew their bid due to the same gaffe. Nancy Killefer, Obama’s pick for chief performance officer, had to bow out when it came out that she failed to pay unemployment compensation tax on household help. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschlef, Obama’s choice to overhaul health care, apologized after he had to fork out $128,203 in back taxes plus $11,964 in interest. Other than that, he also confessed to receiving $5.2 million from businesses “eager for good relations with the government.” The Associated Press noted that “It was a frank admission from an Oval Office where ‘mistakes were made’ has often been the preferred dodge… And rather than spend more valuable time and political capital defending the appointees, the administration dropped them and moved on.” (Source: Yahoo! News)

Of course, even saints have skeletons in their closets. But, authority asks for accountability.
Yes, Obama will make more mistakes, given the enormity of his tasks. Yet, the decision to own up to his fault made him a cut above the rest. In fact, this admission could have cut his losses quickly. To blame his staff for the mistake would just prolong the inevitable agony. This is a good leadership lesson for all of us to learn. Our Lord Jesus seeks such leaders, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.” (Mark 10:42-43, NLT) Humility is a plus, not a minus, for a leader. And it involves taking responsibility for one’s mistakes.

Brethren, leaders are liable.


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