Leaders without any shame – 2013 update

s6000346_22013 update:

So many people I could add. First let me just add the whole of the BBC corporate set-up after the Savile affair and excessive payouts to the former DG and other unsuccessful applicants. That was unbelievable.

And the Sir David Nicholson scandal. He refuses to take responsibility for what happened on his watch at mid-Staffs and since as NHS CEO. He has faced many calls to resign and fall on his sword (well he is a knight) but astonishingly has the backing of the NHS commissioners and the Prime Minister.

Another knight Sir Hector Sants is accused of turning a blind eye when he was head of the FSA during Libor scandal. Barclays bank was one of worst offenders and now employ him on a reputed £3M salary as head of compliance.

Then we had the Senior Fraud Office. The former head, Richard Alderman, was lambasted by the Public Accounts Committee for slovenly leadership. There were unauthorised payoffs of millions of pounds of taxpayers money considered irregular by National Audit Office.

The former Chief Executive Phillippa Williamson, one of the recipients of Alderman’s generosity, wasn’t even appointed through proper channels. She was taken in on secondment by Alderman then made permanent and promoted to Chief Executive. She also lived in the Lake District and claimed £27k for travelling to London 3 times a week.

If the SFO behaves in such a haphazard manner how can they expect to be effective in carrying out their role?

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It’s been a while since I added anyone to my leadership hall of shame. Not because I didn’t care any more but there seemed to be too many mediocre leaders receiving high rewards – even when they were found out.

OK Bob Diamond had to go in the end and we had Fred the Shred de-knighted – but he kept the majority of his massive pension (around £350,000 a year plus a lump sum and bonus of several million) more than most of us have any chance of earning when we are working never mind retired.

But a recent news story reminded me how people get way with it because of incompetence by their employers.

Steve Garner was Head of Children’s Services for Rochdale Council after being promoted from being a manager three years ago. So the systematic abuse of vulnerable children was happening on his watch. He’s now been allowed to resign without any disciplinary action being taken against him.

A review by the Council’s safeguarding board into 5 years of sexual exploitation of girls by a group of predatory Asian men, mainly of Pakistani heritage, who were part of a sex-grooming network which eventually led to 9 of them being jailed, found that in 2007 fifty girls aged between 10 and 17 were identified as having links with local taxi and food takeaway businesses. (NB a further 76 were identified at the start of 2013)

Yet when these girls were referred to social service no action was taken despite concerns by police and care workers as it was thought they were making their own lifestyle choices – remember some of these girls were as young as 10!

The MP for Rotherham – another area with similar problems – said “it was outrageous that the local authority was allowing its senior managers to sneak off without being held to account for their actions”. 

He said that Mr Garner was the person within the department who influenced the culture which failed the victims. He went on to say that he thought the manager should have been suspended months ago, a point most people would find it hard to disagree with, and for that non-action you have to look at the employer, Rochdale Council.

Mr Garner was probably continuing in his predecessor’s footsteps as he was following a series of internal appointments – not always a good thing if change needs to be made.

We could probably add former CEO Roger Ellis to this list as well as he told the parliamentary inquiry (which Steve Garner has declined to attend) that he knew nothing about the child abuse although he was in post for 10 years and it happened on his watch! Like Sharon Shoesmith he says he feels no personal responsibility for any of it. He’s a lawyer so presumably knows his rights if no-one else’s.

The Council’s new Chief Executive Jim Taylor (formerly Director of Children’s Services at Tameside and a maths teacher before that) said that Mr Garner’s resignation was not directly connected to the report and that he would be willing to take disciplinary action against any staff who were identified as culpable after an internal review has been concluded. He said that Mr Garner would not receive any redundancy pay.

Well why would he as they are replacing him, following the thematic review of multi-agency responses to the sexual exploitation of children, to “allow someone else to take forward recommendations”.

Allowing people potentially facing disciplinary action is a common practice in the Public Sector including the Police service eg only this week Sir Norman Bettison has decided to retire in the wake of the report from the  Hillsborough Independent Panel as it enables people who might have been disciplined to retire on their pensions.

It seems that no-one is being held accountable for the whole sorry saga which has been going on for a lot, lot longer than this report suggests and before Mr Garner’s time in post. Nevertheless the Rotherham MP is correct; leaders are highly influential in setting the culture of an organisation and in this case it was clearly a failure of leadership as well as a lack of moral certainty usurped by political correctness on race issues.

In some respects this is similar to the Sharon Shoesmith case (see below).

With Sharon Shoesmith’s distasteful victory in the Courts we saw yet another example of leaders who refuse to take responsibility for their actions – or in this case inactions.

Her reported comments that I don’t do blame” and “this is a victory” has a hollow ring when you think about Baby P. Shoesmith was appointed to make sure that the Climbie case in 2000 was not repeated. She clearly failed to do this and the Courts upheld Ofsted’s findings which described the department as the worst they had ever seen.

At least the leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for the children’s’ services resigned, but not Shoesmith. And she got her compensation for unfair dismissal thanks to Ed Balls heavy-handed interference (but what was HR doing?). So big compensation for being rubbish at her job.

The last person I  added to my list was Barclay’s Bob Diamond who told the House of Commons Treasury Committee parliamentary committee earlier this year that “There was a period of remorse and apology for banks, that period needs to be over” and “the biggest issue is how do we put some of the blame game behind us?”.

He also said that they were sensitive and were listening. I don’t remember any bankers listening and refusing bonuses or showing any remorse at all!

We expect a lot of leaders and expect them to be good role models but that’s not what we get a lot of the time. Leaders with narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies often show their dark side when under pressure.

The fact that “Fred the Shred” felt it necessary to take out a superinjunction to protect the public learning about his alleged affair with a senior member of staff at a time that the bank was going under at least shows some self-awareness, albeit in his own interest, that his behaviour might be seen as counter-productive. But on the whole people like Diamond and Shoesmith don’t seem to possess a lot of emotional intelligence.

4 June 2011: It would be so easy to add Sepp Blatter to the list after his Napoleonic “coronation” but this week’s nomination has to be Bernie Ecclestone after his decision to go to Bahrain with his Formula 1 circus. He obviously needs the $40m but even the sponsors are nervous about the effect on their reputations.

Britain has close relations with Bahrain but given the suppression of protests there and the possibility of a terrorist attack it’s a dubious decision. Ecclestone might have a nose for a commercial deal but scores zero for ethical leadership.

12 July 2011: I’ve been trying to decide who is worse, Rebecca Brooks or any member of the Murdoch family. But the “red top” who oversaw the demise of the News of the World, which she described as a toxic brand and thereby besmirched the reputations of the 200 staff, has to be on a par with Sharon Shoesmith for not accepting any responsibility for what happened.

Leaders who won’t fall on their sword, who believe they are right, who blame everyone else (Brooks was editor at the time of the hacking) don’t deserve to be leaders. Why did Murdoch back her? She said she was a lightning rod for criticism.

Perhaps it keeps the heat off son James Murdoch. Rebecca should remember that no matter how much a favoured “daughter” she thinks she is, blood is thicker than water (and true to form Murdoch is now back at BSkyB).

Rebecca Brooks eventually lost her job, albeit with a reported £1.7M payoff and use of an office and chauffeur-driven car for two years. Perhaps they’re waiting for the Sun on Sunday to be published.

And whilst we are on this topic let’s add Assistant Commissioner John Yates to the list for complete lack of leadership. OK he has apologised, admitted that the Metropolitan Police’s reputation is “very damaged“, appears not to have carried out his responsibilities properly when he mishandled the review of the 2007 inquiry (apparently he decided in a matter of hours even though there were 11,000 pages of notes involved), but he’s not resigned either.

James is still trying not to show how incompetent, or devious, he is but it looks like the Murdoch dynasty has upset too many shareholders to continue for another generation.

I previously let Sepp Blatter off the hook because of Bernie Ecclestone’s Bahrain fiasco but after this week and his belated apology and refusal to resign – and why would he quit the corrupt gravy train that is FIFA – he’s got to be latest nomination for a leader completely without principles and any awareness of what the public think about him and his ideas.

He’s not the only one in football to defend the indefensible this month eg spitting at people is culturally acceptable in South American countries – really? So Sepp Blatter joins my leadership hall of shame.

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