Ronald E Riggio, at Psychology Today Blogs, offers some thoughts on why people are willing to follow bad leaders. Here’s one (emphasis in the orginal); follow the link for the othrs:
We Rationalize. This is a very human response to rationalize away the “sins” of our poor leaders. When the leader is caught in a violation – a sexual affair, some underhanded dealings, profiteering – we rationalize by saying “It’s ok. S/he is the leader” and we make an exception. If we continue to rationalize the leader’s offenses, it becomes a slippery slope, with the bad leader engaging in worse and worse behavior and never being held accountable.
(As an aside, I see this one almost daily in letters to the editor of my local rag. For example.)