Follow the Leader

A recent two part BBC Radio programme (“Follow the Leader” presented by Carolyn Quinn) did a good job of exploring the concept of Leadership and some of the current issues facing Business Leaders.    I was surprised though, that there was very little emphasis in the programme on the question of ethics or moral responsibility in business, particularly in the wake of corporate scandals, the banking crisis and environmental disasters such as the BP oil spill.   These recent events have heightened the debate about the integrity of business leaders and have led to some interesting discussions about the subject of morality in business.   I prefer  the term ‘responsible management’ which goes beyond the rather tired notions of ‘corporate social responsibility’  and ‘business ethics’ and represents a deeper and more meaningful approach to the issue.

“Follow the Leader” began with various politicians and business people attempting to define leadership and what it is that makes a good leader.  Rightly, the need for a clear vision and sense of direction was stressed.  There was also general agreement that leaders need to be decisive, confident, strong, thick-skinned and with a competitive attitude.    I wouldn’t argue with the value of these qualities in certain circumstances but it was disappointing that no one thought to mention the importance of honesty, integrity or conscientiousness in the context of leadership.   How can a leader without these qualities hope to command genuine respect, or to inspire and motivate others? The programme’s second episode opened with a discussion about the greater visibility of leaders today.  The rise of social media and aggressive press activity means that those with influence and power are much more exposed and that news of any gaffs or misdemeanours will travel fast, worldwide.  Contributors to the programme suggested that, as a result of this increased scrutiny, leaders needed to be more mindful of their actions, pay attention to image and manage the risks to their reputation.    Well, although this is good advice, it is again disappointing that the emphasis is on ‘keeping your nose clean’ rather than leading according to moral principles, personal values or an inherent sense of responsibility.   Leaders are, first and foremost, human beings, with flaws and weaknesses as well as strengths.  A genuinely effective leader puts effort into understanding themselves and others.  Their leadership style and approach to business is informed by that understanding and is determined by their own moral code and set of values.  These values are strongly communicated, drive the business and form the basis for all decision-making.   Ask most people to think about a leader they admire or who has inspired them and I can guarantee that, although ‘strong’ and ‘thick-skinned’ might be amongst the admired qualities, ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’ and ‘concern for others’ are more likely to be at the top of the list.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.

Latest posts from my blog