Does it make any difference to your ability to be a leader (or an employee) if you are alcoholic? Would you vote for an alcoholic? Does an addiction make you unfit for office as prime-minister or as president? Should it disqualify you as CEO? Would you be happy if your manager was addicted to cocaine, marijuana, heroin, drugs, sex, or just making incredibly unhelpful changes just for the hell of it?
Ok, so the last one may have been included mainly for effect but it underlines the serious point of the distinction between a behaviour that may prevent a leader being effective and behaviour that is indisputably ineffective.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease which, unless the sufferer totally abstains, will unavoidably lead to a worsening of health and competence. If the alcoholic is only marginally competent to begin with this can really be a problem – tongue in cheek but again true.
If the sufferer's performance at work is still within acceptable limits is it any business of the – well – business? Or of the electorate in the case of Charles Kennedy, leader – until his resignation last weekend – of Britain's Liberal Democrat party, whose drinking affliction brought about his demise.
It is estimated that there are at least nine million alcoholics in the USA today. Luminaries such as Jack London, President Ulysses S. Grant, Edgar Allan Poe, Dylan Thomas, and even King Edward VIII (later duke of Windsor) were all alcoholics whose drinking, we are told, damaged their ability to do their work.
What can we expect the results of addiction to be? One writer, James Graham, in his "Secret History" on the subject argues that alcoholism causes egomania which is displayed in behaviours that include, "denial, lying, overachievement, ethical deterioration, false accusations, rejection of friends, grandiosity, aggressive sexual behaviour, multiple marriages, unreasonable resentments, and superficial emotions".
His examples includes Hitler's father and Stalin, described as the "supreme alcoholic", who Graham claims both illustrate what happens when addiction is not overcome - particularly, it seems, when the sufferers wield great power.
All this suggests that having a leader (with power) who is also alcoholic (encouraging egomania and poor decision making skills) is not such a good idea.
It is a matter of record that the present incumbent in the white house abused alcohol. George W claims that he decided to quit on his own and, unless there is drinking we don't know about, managed to do so successfully without assistance (although his wife, Laura, did threaten that, "it's me or the booze" on at least one occasion).
This story didn't stop Bush getting elected and the rumour that he had turned to drink again didn't stop him getting re-elected. It's tempting to discuss the possible links to, "denial, lying, and ethical deterioration", but it will be left to you to consider whether that is credible.
So it is clear that it is possible to be voted into office if you were once someone who abused alcohol (or even drugs), but what about if you currently have a problem?
Some employers are interested in testing for alcohol or drug abuse, influenced no doubt by studies that suggest how much money such abuse could be costing them. One study, published in 1999, put the cost to UK employers alone at £2 billion a year.
Research has found that, "absenteeism is two to three times higher for drug and alcohol users than for other employees, those employees with chemical dependence problems may claim three times as many sickness benefits and file five times as many workers' compensation claims; 20 to 25 per cent of accidents at work involve intoxicated people injuring themselves and innocent victims, and that on-the-job supplies of drugs and alcohol account for 15 to 30 per cent of all accidents at work."
So have you ever been tested? The higher up you are in the hierarchy the less likely it is that you will have been. Clearly leaders are unlikely to demand tests for themselves - besides which, they aren't operating heavy machinery so how could they possibly make damaging decisions while drunk?
But does the workplace itself have an impact on the likelihood of alcohol or drug abuse? Do some workplaces drive their workers to drink? Do workplaces cause deadly stress?
This certainly seems to be the case in Japan where "overwork" or "karoshi" killed as many 50,000 workers in 2001 (due to high blood pressure, heart disease or simply overloading the bodies of those affected).
Similarly, alcohol (a chemical brain depressant) tends to be abused by those who are seeking sweet oblivion, which in turn leads to depression, reduction in work effectiveness, performance anxiety and, inevitably, to more depression.
Put it this way, your life won't feel a lot better if you have lost your job because you are so bad at it because you were drinking away your brain cells.
So should Charles Kennedy have been forced to resign? No. He should have resigned three years ago and sorted out a personal problem before it reduced his effectiveness, became a political problem to his party and a public circus for him and his young family. But that's a hard decision to make when your preferred poison is reducing your ability to think clearly.