Murdoch’s latest leadership lesson
Readers of this blog will know about my interest in observing business leaders and drawing lessons from their behaviour. In particular I have been captivated by the Leveson enquiry and what it reveals about the Murdoch way of doing business (see ”Lessons in responsible leadership” 12 July 2011).
Yesterday, during the questioning of James Murdoch, the enquiry demonstrated how carelessly worded private emails can come back to haunt you. Quite apart from what the evidence shows about the unethical (if not illegal) practices taking place, the emails reveal a complete lack of judgement and arrogance amongst News Corp senior executives. They are clearly incapable of behaving ethically, but you might expect senior people to understand the golden rule: Do not commit anything to email that you would not want everyone in the world to read.
And today I have been watching Rupert Murdoch. It is intriguing – he bumbles and pauses and professes to remember very little of past events. One wonders how someone with such a bad memory can have built such a powerful empire. Nevertheless he is bullish and stubborn when he needs to be and has made some astounding statements, for example: ‘I try very hard to set an example of ethical behaviour’. If this is true (OK, just try to imagine for a moment), his influence as a leader clearly counts for nothing within News Corp.
We don’t need the Leveson enquiry to tell us that News Corp is corrupt, that phone hacking took place and that senior people at News Corp are guilty of unethical behaviour. And no one can be surprised to learn that governments are not always impartial in their dealings with big business. What we are learning is that huge corporations are not invincible. Even those at the head of the most powerful organisations are capable of foolish errors, crass behaviour, gross lack of judgement and monumental arrogance.
The leadership lesson? Business leaders who lack authenticity, moral judgement and a genuine sense of responsibility will ultimately fail.
Jeanette has over 20 years experience in management and was Chief Executive of AMBA for 7 years. She has worked in both the commercial and public sectors. Having completed her MBA (with distinction) at the Cass Business School, Jeanette was asked to join the school's academic team as a Visiting Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour... [read more]
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