Desiree Rogers’ Teachable Moment

All that charisma can be as much liability as asset if it's not correctly managed...

One of the Teachable Moments that emerged from last week’s Crashergate scandal might be this: when you sign on to make your employer shine, your own light will have to be dimmed a little. Especially if you were a star to begin with.

Desiree Rogers became White House Social Secretary and Special Assistant to the President precisely because she was a star—and a good friend. Her corporate and social résumés were impressive and she is universally acknowledged to be a charming, generous host for her own private parties, and the more public ones she has agreed to sponsor in the past.

That panache got Rogers listed in some of the nation’s most prestigious fashion and entertaining bibles, and no doubt brought her to mind when the White House began looking for exactly the right person to head the office that would showcase its style to the outside world.

But anyone with that much charisma has a problem, even when her employers are themselves significantly charismatic: this is the time to make sure your employers are front and center. Always.

Rogers’ appointment follows a well-established pattern of social secretaries being good friends to the First Ladies they serve. The most famous example is Leticia Baldridge, probably the last great social secretary who, with her employer, set the tone for the Kennedy White House, went to boarding school with Jacqueline Kennedy.