25 July 2011
Over the last week there has been much discussion in and around the media on leadership, primarily concerned with the News of the World case.
Personally I find the sight of politicians haranguing successful business people on the subject of accountability completely risible, but hypocrisy is the hallmark of modern politics and, sadly, we quietly accept it.
One day we might see genuine leadership from those we elect to office, but I doubt that it will happen while they all subject themselves to their media advisers; you can lead a committee, but you can't truly lead by committee.
Where the Murdoch chaps fit into this week's thoughts is the question of their position relative to what they knew.The whole sorry mess has seen much hysteria, but there is a basic issue at the heart of it as far as leadership goes, and that is that the leader should be setting the tone and that will be promulgated throughout the organisation.
How well that is done is another facet of leadership, but you cannot always guarantee that everyone will do the right thing; there are all sorts of possible failures from people not doing what they should whether that be through innocent or malicious reasons. I remember a negotiation training course where a good syndicate group would have worked that out, at a critical stage in the deal, they would have to brief their notional team on keeping their powder dry. The boat must not be rocked at any cost, and so the syndicate would go through the role playing of talking the senior management team through what was needed of them. We would then roll the timeline forward and, of course, one of the senior team would have stepped out of line and torpedoed the negotiation. Sure it was cruel, but the syndicate members needed to be able to react to such situations because they do happen.
Now I make no judgement here on whether or not the Murdoch team knew what was going on over at NOTW or not, but it is patently obvious that you cannot delegate and be absolutely certain that your standards, policies or instructions will be upheld. You accept the risk and build in appropriate measures to mitigate against such risk, one of which is that a transgressor will lose their job.
To be conducting the questioning of the Murdoch's along those lines is to mislead the public at large and is therefore another leadership failure, but let's not get me back onto politicians, let's just return to the point of the leader needing to set the tone.
Elsewhere in my newspapers this week, I note that Wayne Rooney heads the table of footballers whose name is most popular among fans buying team shirts. It seems that more people want to have his name on their backs that anyone else which, on the basis that he has followers, makes him a leader of sorts.
I don't follow professional football much these days; the game has lost its charm for me, but I respect Mr Rooney's ability and application in his job. What does nothing to earn my respect is his behaviour, and this is what he shares with the NOTW.
The NOTW was successful because people wanted to read what it told them. It too was a leader and generated large amounts of advertising revenue because of its followers. But, like Mr Rooney, there were behavioural aspects that should have been curtailed, and in this the Murdoch's failed.
Leaders can be good or bad. We need the former.
Read more of John Bowen's blogs at That Consultant Bloke
Other news for Monday 25th July 2011:
Apollo and Keepmoat in £1bn merger
OFT investigates JLL and King Sturge merger
FM 100 Poll: FMs content with their helpdesks
Lindley wins Wednesday catering deal
FM blog: Lessons from the NOTW and Wayne Rooney?