Crozier or Benitez: You Decide

October 31, 2009

I have been wrestling with the big leadership question of the week. Who is likely to be in his job longer, Adam Crozier of the Royal Mail, or Rafa Benitez of Liverpool Football club?

Mr Benitez’s team has suffered from injuries, losses on the field, and departure of key players. Worse, he has received a formal endorsement from his employers that his job is safe. It is part of football black humour to assume that any leader offered such an endorsement is far from safe in the job. His team faced one of those crunch matches over the weekend. We will never know what might have happened to Rafa if Liverpool had lost their sixth successive game. The players rose to the challenge and defeated their bitter rivals Manchester United.

Earlier in the day, the CEO of Liverpool FC gave Rafa that dreaded endorsement

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has been handed long-term job assurances by the club’s managing director Pressure has been mounting following a miserable run of four successive defeats. But Christian Purslow told Sportsweek: “Liverpool are on a long-term journey and you do not do that by worrying about short term results. Rafa Benitez is absolutely central to that long-term plan.”

Meanwhile

Mr Crozier has appeared to be slumbering while his company sank into irretrievable strategic trouble and imminent industrial relations conflicts. His management team also seemed to be facing a crunch match with the rampant forces of the Workers Communication Union.

The fate of these leaders way be settled by factors outside their control. But there may be indicators of the strength of the limpet factor in each case. Rafa is believed to have a high Limpet factor in the penalty clauses which would be triggered on his dismissal. Adam Crozier’s financial arrangements are unlikely to be such a consideration for his employers, which arguably include the Government (which claims not to want to interfere).

What do you think?


Question Time and Nick Griffin Share an Andy Warhol Moment

October 23, 2009

Nick Griffin

The BBC’s Question Time programme and Nick Griffin, leader of the right-wing British Nationalist Party, share a hugely insignificant event

Question Time is a venerable BBC chat show. This week it became the centre of a political story through its decision to invite Nick Griffin, leader of the right-wing British Nationalist Party to take part.

The programme format is to have a group of B-celebrities discuss current affairs under the avuncular chairmanship of David Dimbleby and interaction with an audience which is groomed to produce questions, pass comment, and generally exercise the appropriate amount of righteous indignation. The show normally escapes publicity. Views tend to be less than insightful, although the principle of balance and the presence of rather old-fashioned personalities on the panel can provide lively expression of opposing views. Sometimes there are flashes of genuine debate.

The political discussion programme was recorded as anti-fascist campaigners protested outside Television Centre. Mr Griffin was booed at the start of the recording and accused of trying to “poison politics” as he was attacked by fellow panellists and the audience. He said he had been “demonised” and repeatedly denied saying things which have been attributed to him.

Early reactions to the show were captured by The Times

The corporation was delighted with the outcome, claiming that it justified the decision to include Mr Griffin. Mark Byford, the deputy director-general, said: “Members of the audience asked the kind of tough questions that mark Question Time out as the premier television programme where the public put the panellists on the spot.”
Comments on internet forums from television viewers accused the BBC of getting it wrong by allowing everyone to gang up on Mr Griffin and make him look like a victim.

It Doesn’t Matter

Call me one of those internet forum commentators. I was struck by several aspects of the programme. It seemed over-staged. The panellists took turns in conveying their revulsion for Mr Griffin and his political party, while stoutly justifying the rationale for sharing a public platform with him. The chairman encouraged the ‘ganging up’ process by taking part in it.

The audience were also pretty-well rehearsed. The hostility was of that of appropriate licence granted to licence holders. Not too subservient, emotional from time to time, but nothing too aggressive.

The media discussion after the show explored the rather anxious question posed at the end of the programme by the BBC. Is this an early Christmas present for the BNP?
Griffin’s fumbling performance might be replayed to some effect in the run-up to the next election. That was pretty much the BBC’s line. Here’s my alternative view: This is a 24-hour story, unlikely to have much longer-term impact. Question Time and Nick Griffin have done no more than share an Andy Warhol Moment.

… But what if Griffin had been more persuasive? I would like to think that the outcome would even then have been minimal.


How Long Will Adam Crozier Keep His Job?

October 22, 2009

AdamCrozier

The first day of the Postal Strike saw the question raised. How long will Royal Mail CEO Adam Crozier keep his job?

During the 2007 strike I suggested that the Royal Mail issue was too hot to handle for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, or the opposition’s David Cameron. I went in for gloom and doom, muttering about lions led by donkeys and the horsemen of the economic apocalypse.

Little seems to have changed since then. The battle lines are now drawn up over implementation of the fragile agreement reached after the last dispute. The various players in leadership roles appear to be digging in for a fight with few obvious winners. Billy Hayes of the Communications Union (CWD) provides the rhetoric of Trade Union leaders of two or three decades ago. It is unclear whether there is much to be gained, beyond keeping faith with the anger and frustration of his membership.

According to The Communications Union (CWU) [Oct 13th 2009]

Royal Mail is rolling out those changes with little or no concern for the views or interests of our members, the hard-working postal staff .. Worse still, we have seen an alarming rise in bullying and harassment cases with managers using the flimsiest of reasons to sack postal workers with long service. The CWU has offered a three-month no-strike deal in return for negotiations and a suspension of the current changes which are forcing postal workers into industrial action.

The combined challenge of competition, pensions and the need to adapt to a rapidly changing world of communications makes change necessary. Royal Mail’s current approach clearly isn’t working so we’re seeking intensive talks to establish a national agreement that will pave the way for rolling out the change that the company desperately needs.

The Leadership of the Royal Mail

Nor is Royal Mail demonstrating convincing leadership in this matter. If there is a strategy, it is about keeping a low profile. A colleague charitably suggested to me that its CEO Adam Crozier may be deploying a do-nothing strategy, letting the Union self-destruct. It must be a very subtle strategy. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom which suggests it important to demonstrate that corporate leaders are pursuing a sound plan.

Mr Crozier is regarded by many as asmooth but ruthless business operator. His initial appointment might have been over-influenced by his bravura display in his previous job at the Football Association. There seemed little to justify the Royal Mail appoitment in a CV showing time at Saatchi & Saatchi, and Pedigree Petfoods.

At the time that it may have made sense as part of a tough double act of Leighton and Crozier. One tough and abrasive, one tough and smooth.

In an earlier blog I suggested that

Allan Leighton has an appetite for self-publicity as inspection of the Royal Mail website reveals. He presents himself as a dynamic (and somewhat terrifying) leader. In public he attempts to soften the image by implying he is very much one of a team, operating closely with CEO Adam Crozier.

Maybe Leighton saw in Crozier a promising sidekick in a double act. But those skills become less valued when a leader has to act as solitary lightening conductor for political storms…

Which might be the position Mr Cozier finds himself in, now that Allan Leighton has been has replaced by the equally decisive Don Brydon.

Adam Crozier, Royal Mail’s chief executive, could be forgiven if he were a little apprehensive about the Government’s appointment of Donald Brydon as chairman of the state-run postal service. Mr Brydon, who becomes a non-executive director of Royal Mail immediately and is to take over the chairmanship from Allan Leighton at the end of March [2009], has a history of disposing of chief executives. In a recent interview, Mr Brydon, 63, pointed to three examples: the chief executive of Allied “got chopped”; the chief executive of ScottishPower “got chopped”; and he “changed” the chief executive at Smiths, the engineering company, of which he remains chairman

What Next?

Mr Crozier will sooner or later make an appearance above the battlements. One influential commentator, Kevin Maguire of The Mirror, is already calling for his head.

There will be other losers in and outside Royal Mail. It adds up to a potentially gory tale of leadership and its challenges.


Authentic Leadership and the Mask of Command

October 12, 2009

Mask of command

Almost by definition, a leader has intentions of influencing the behaviours of other people. This is often associated with personal ambition. Which prompts the question: How might we assess a leader’s authenticity through their examining their actions?

In recent years, a popular leadership concept is that of the authenticity of leaders in their actions and public pronouncements. For example, a recent article in Harvard Business Review examines authentic leadership. Its author, Jim Heskett, traces the term back to Warren Bennis, one of the all-time greats of leadership thinking.

Bennis raises questions about the nature of leadership … can a leader be authentic, or do the masks of command force the leader to be something other than his or her true self? Can a leader both act and be real?

Heskett introduces the idea of a leader’s moral compass. That is a term which is suffering through over-use particularly in political circles by leaders claiming the high ground of moral rectitude.

There’s more to authenticity …

Recipes for authetic leadership can be found in many popular books on personal development. Too often they are offered as checklists to be followed. Professor Heskett takes a more grown-up approach. He introduces the realistic situation in which a leader is aware of the need to reassure and comfort others under difficult or even extreme conditions. The mask of command requires a leader to appear confident when all seems lost. How does that sort of performance stack up with notions of authenticity?


Are some leaders able to navigate a managerial life without being authentic to their organizations or to themselves? In fact, are there times when it is necessary to avoid being authentic?

Some people take the view that any display of command demonstrate that a dramatic performance is going on. To them, such behaviour is phoney. Others are less dismissive of role-playing in public life.

As the general manager of a small company I am currently faced with this exact dilemma. In less than 12 months, business has gone down 46%, production is running at 12% capacity, the warehouse full and I am worried and scared. 25 people look up to me, every day, probably questioning every decision made, worried to death about their future and I see fear in their eyes. The question is not if the command mask can coexist with authentic leadership, but rather how it can not. I can not afford not to wear a mask of everything will be okay or chaos would soon follow.

So what do you think?

The mask of command is a term borrowed from the title of book by the English military historian John Keegan. He was interested in political leaders and dictators. But the concept has wider application into business and other areas of activity such as sport.
I rather suspect that Professor Heskett is working from behind the mask of the professional academic concealing his own views to encourage us to think for ourselves. Which is a mask I rather think I should be borrowing as well.


Leadership analysis at the Conservative Conference

October 8, 2009

Trials in advance of the Leadership speech on Thursday.

Cameron Manchester

If you want to join in the trials you can text TudorTweet

Monday Oct 5th

6.02 Listened to Radio 4’s Today Programme. Thinking this is a bit like what [colleague] AH does on his PC during meetings

6:23 Worthy but soporific discussion on SFA

6:24 My timing 2 min out. (BST). Will stick to this timing

6:26 Sport. I thought the programme would be wall-to-wall politics

6:27 News summary: Conservatives to cut benefits . [First lead]

Con. questions over Europe [Second lead].

That’s more like it.

6:29 Other items. Chance to get breath

6.30 Conference report: Half million benefit story. Likely to be controversial.
Risk nasty party. EASY TO ‘KEEP NOTES’, HARDER TO COMMENT. Maybe can clean up typos in real time?

6: 33 Lisbon / EU. Cameron needs to buy time and placate activists

Conclusion: must trial adding comments and outside feeds. Light fuse plunges trial into extra chaos. Think I’ll bale out

6:38 Trial ends

6.44 Fixed fuse. Checking how easy it will be to take a few Twitter feeds. Of course, I can add feeds subsequently. This may be a project needing a small social network [note for PC/AH].

Trial 2

Osborn’s speech [Tuesday]

12.35: Missed it by a few minutes. Appears to have been a speech which made the pain from change clear. Worth examining as another trial. ‘We are all in this together’ [Did he know the High School Musical song?].

To follow the trial

Don’t forget to refresh the page to keep up with the flow (fingers crossed) ..

Here we go

13.34

Discussion with my colleagues AH and MC suggested importance of balance in the forthcoming speech. Balance between confidence, and overconfidence. Another tension to be managed.

13.37

William Haigh warms up,
‘He sounds more Prime Ministerial’ [AC]

“It’s quite good going on the beach next to a fat person …[anon]. is this a suggestion WH is a dire warm-up to make DC appear even better?

‘..and fifth ….something about own values ..driving slave trade from the seas … this how we will defeat terrorists ‘. Ends. Warmish applause.

13.51 Oh, another warm-up.
Tim Kirkhope, leader of new Conservative group in Europe. Low key. Another warm-up reception.

BBC averts its gaze from other people’s advertising to sneak in some of its own…

14.02 “EXPECTED SOON Coverage of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, including David Cameron’s speech, from the BBC Parliament Channel.”

Soon is 14.10. Technical supporters of LWD go to find coffee. I resume full control of the Computer and incoming feeds.. There do not seem to be any incoming feeds (or drinks, come to think of it. Where are they?).

13.59

Just in time. Thanks. Especially for the Minstrels. One packet. Is that for collaboration or meanness.

14.10

Bored helpers start discussing childbirth experiences. One was in labour when Margaret Thatcher offered her resignation. Other had a more recent vicarious experience. I stick to watching screen.

14.14 This speech is overdue (if I retain the natal metaphor). Cold Play plays on.

14.16 Back in hall. Darkness descends. House music (so AH says).
Echoes of warehouse music(whatever that means).
‘Steady rhythmic beat of anticipation’ (MC).

14.21 WH re-emerges to clapping.
Introduces team. ‘The Shadow Cabinet’. Warmish applause.

Then introdues on video someone
called Bono… our culture correspondence says he is a charity big hitter

14.25 A look back at 4 years under DC. The ecstasy of delayed gratification. When is HE coming.

14.31 He slipped in. I thought it was part of the montage!

14.31 attack on Labour ..steep climb but view from summit worth it.
First priority Afghanistan. Need top politician of top rank (Liam Fox).

[So are are going through the ‘team’ on the platform’?] Mentioned General Dannett’s role. Asked for round of applause for our troops.

14.39

Mentions personal tragedy this year. Moves on to his deep values. and
the big argument: Labour ‘we need more government..why is economy …society broken’ because government got too big’.

Alternative ‘rebuilding responsibility’.
We will have to rebuild and take the Country will us’ [seems to be talking ‘inside’ first.

Our option: we must pay down the deficit. The longer we wait the more we waste. What is progressive about spending on debt not our schools.

Recounts leaked cuts to ministers’ pay/ public servants pay. Outlined where growth came from – business entrepreneurship and infectious self-belief.

14.56 Identified with rescuing the poorest from Labour’s tax penalties. Well applauded. The rescuer Ian Duncan Smith. If we win (again) IDS will help us mend the broken society.

15.00 Convincing righteous indignation about Labour’s failure to fix broken society. For me, authentic sounding. Stop treating adults like children and children like adults. This was a soundbite at last

15.06 This party is the party of the NHS. Targets will be removed, and replaced by patient accountability.

15.09 big government blamed for vivid examples of social dislocation.

15.11 Education. ‘I come as a parent not a politician’ (Oh, OK, then). Give the money to Heads not spend it in Whitehall. (At least something to analyse).

15.17 We will sweep rotten edifice [of Labour] away.

15.18 The Broken Parliament. We are just starting (after the expenses scandals). But even more this applies to the EC. William Haugue will lead our work (brief mention of a referendum).

15.22 Leadership. Will learn from poor leadership of TB and then GB.

15.25 Returns to theme. It will be a steep climb but the view will be worth it.

Ends to strong applause.

Instant Verdict

What impression did it leave on me. Effortless effort. Polished. Emotionally intelligent. Avoided sounded triumphant. Appealed to a wider outside audience who might not be concerned with its lack of specifics. At the end there was an almost indecently abrupt and calculated cutting-off of applause. Did he manage the different audiences? May have deliberately sacrificed in-hall rapture, in exchange for out-of-hall reactions. Just about got it right between tough love and toff love.


Leadership Analysis on-line

October 4, 2009

Leaders We Deserve invites collaboration in an on-line experiment in leadership analysis at the Conservative Party Conference

Cameron Manchester

In this age of social media, it should be possible to develop on-line conversations and analysis which combines the earlier chatrooms and blogging with newer media such as twitter. As a trial, LWD will report on-line this week as a leadership event unfolds.

Our first live trial will be to examine the speech by David Cameron as it is being made at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Thursday, 14:00 BST (13.00 GMT)

We will be sharing the conversation with participants on Free Trade, the new electronic communications site from Manchester Business School. LWD subscribers are also invited to join in on-line.

To join in

More details will be announced over the next few days. If you are interested in joining in this little experiment, please send a comment to this site. Suggestions for strengthening the idea are particularly welcome.

Watch this space

Watch this space for details of our first leadership analysis
on-line.

Early morning preparations

Just added Echo to LWD to enhance comments esp via Twitter. Hope to learn how it works
or its $12.00 lost. Have prepared template for this afternoon’s trial….

14.00

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BAE Faces Global Challenge

October 2, 2009

bae

BAE Systems faces a major leadership challenge over international contracts. How serious is the threat, and how might BAE Systems differ from other globally trading organizations?

A long-running story broke this week [Oct 1st 2009]. British anti-fraud prosecutors intend to pursue a case against BAE Systems, the world’s No. 2 defense contractor, on charges of corruption in dealings on foreign contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Prosecutors said they will seek permission from Attorney General Patricia Scotland to pursue the case against BAE, which is Britain’s largest manufacturer. In a statement, BAE Systems said it “continues to expend considerable effort seeking to resolve, at the earliest opportunity, the historical matters under investigation by the SFO.”

The cases involve alleged secret payments on sales of a military radar to Tanzania; alleged bribes behind a Czech deal to lease Anglo-Swedish Gripen warplanes; payments allegedly made on a sale of two frigates to Romania; and 100 million pounds ($160 million) in allegedly secret payments in a weapons deal with South Africa.

Christopher Grierson, a partner in the bribery and corruption taskforce at Lovells LLP international law firm, said the SFO’s decision would shake British business.

“The sheer scale of the penalties being sought, which are believed to be 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion), is unprecedented in the U.K. and will send shockwaves across corporate Britain” END

Make no mistake. There are considerable problems and adverse publicity facing BAE in the coming months. Public awareness of Corporate Governance issues has been raised over the last year or so with the high-profile financial scandals.

Background

Background briefing reveals how the story can be treated in quite different ways. The Guardian sees the annoucement as vindication of its campaign against what it sees as corporate corruption supported by the British Government. In contrast, The Mail sees evidence of an anti-Capitalist plot.

The Guardian editorial put it this way

Last time BAE Systems was threatened by justice in 2006, it wriggled free with the aid of a personal minute from Tony Blair. His questionable claim was that throwing the book at these merchants of war would threaten lives on British streets. The pressure on the Serious Fraud Office to drop its probe into the firm’s Saudi dealings amounted to – in the words of the high court judge who reviewed the case – “a gun held to the director’s head”.

Peter Oborne in The Daily Mail writes:

Fifty years ago Britain could still boast a magnificent and proud industrial base, but today we only have two truly world class manufacturing giants.

The first of these is the superlative pharmaceuticals conglomerate Glaxo and the second is the great defence contractor British Aerospace.

yesterday’s news that the Serious Fraud Office wants BAE to be prosecuted for corruption is not just a calamity for the company, its shareholders and the men and women who work for it.

It is also a national disaster, with devastating consequences for British domestic employment, overseas earnings, and our standing throughout the world. It is doubtful whether BAE could easily survive paying the £1billion fine that the SFO is reportedly demanding, nor the massive reputational damage that would result.

Of course, we would all have to stomach this national calamity if BAE really was corrupt and a disgrace to Britain. No one can condone corruption. But is BAE really corrupt? Or is it about to become the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice?

Oborne goes on to suggest that BAE Systems is operating globally where one culture’s incentives is another culture’s corruption.

The BBC analysis

As usual, Robert Peston offers an informed overview:

BAE, Britain’s biggest manufacturer, would dearly like to make a limited admission of guilt, pay a fine and move on. It would love to settle the case by plea bargain and turn over a new leaf, to use the cliché.

That’s wholly rational, in that most of the senior executives of the company weren’t with the business in the period when, by its own admission, it wasn’t as scrupulous in its business practices as it would now like to be. But its directors have a legal duty not to hand over cash or damage the reputation of the company – through what would be seen as a confession of wrongdoing – unless they are advised by their own lawyers that the SFO has an overwhelming case.

A Case for Analysis

The case offers much for analysis. The Guardian and The Mail have been useful starting points as wirnesses for the prosecution and for the defense. Might it be possible to apply a little more creative thinking to provide advice for the future of BAE Systems, and implications for global organizations in general, and Governments, based on the case?

Other Perspectives

Campaign against the arms trade

BAE Systems