And it is at that unfortunate time that people pile on you. So you get a lawyer. And you do as you are told: plead the Fifth or go silent.
Which may keep your hide out of jail. But also damages your reputation forever.
Had you been investing in your credibility all along this may not have happened. You would have your ear to the ground. You would sniff out the slightest hint if a problem. You would banish it right away.
You would do many things on the positive side too. To make sure people know that you are on your game, on your guard and no bullshit allowed.
Like with scandals, people get heart attacks and cancer and we don't totally know why. But we know what habits are associated with disease. High stress, processed food, no sleep and little exercise - e.g. the typical person's life. We have to take active steps to avoid and hopefully reverse these.
It's the same with reputation.
Angelina Jolie just got a double mastectomy. She has the gene for cancer. A little pain and ugliness now means a lifetime of - well, living! - with her family, humanitarian work and career after that.
We do not want to go to the negative places. But we have to. When something could possibly go wrong, prevent it by talking about the complexities of reality. Give more information instead of less and make it meaningful, understandable and engaging.
An ongoing conversation is less likely to end in reputation disaster. Once you're a known quantity, people can relate and are less likely to judge you.
If you screw up, say so too. It makes you human. (We are a forgiving people! We like nothing more than to forgive!)
The absolute worst thing a leader can do, in my mind, is to make a habit of clamming up. Quiet leaders generate suspicion, especially when they work in controversial fields. It's like - hey, what are they up to? - even when they're just getting a cup of joe.
The human mind gravitates toward simplicity, story and drama. Tell yours first or you risk having others fit you into their own script.
One you can never control.
*As always, all opinions are my own.