Steven Hester: Villain, hero, or just an outstanding business leader?

Royal Bank of Scotland took its turn this week as another giant banking institution paying ridiculous bonuses while still in hock to the Government’s bale-out scheme. Its leader Steven Hester is reviled as another fat-cat financial leader insensitive to public opinion

Contrition is a rather hard emotion for a leader to fake. Akio Toyoda struggled recently to convey his regrets, as he attempted to apologise for the faults in the operations of the mighty Toyota corporation. By and large, leaders of the financial institutions have also struggled when called to account in that Harmanesque court of public opinion. So when one of them appears to be making a good fist of apologising without appearing a pathetic wimp and maybe a bit of a damp rag as a leader, it’s worth taking a more careful look.

The BBC’s Hugh Pym asked RBS’s CEO Stephen Hester, why were there still such big losses for RBS. The (3 minute) video interview is worth looking at. If you are interested, I’d advise you to take a look, and judge for yourself. Make your own mind up. I’d like to know what conclusions you reach, after you have watched the brief video … Comments would be welcomed.

Of course, it would be wrong to jump to conclusions on the basis of a three minute interview. On the other hand, it should be enough to compare and contrast the impression being made with that of the majority of apologists on behalf of an organization (or even of a political party).

7 Responses to Steven Hester: Villain, hero, or just an outstanding business leader?

  1. Tudor says:

    Close followers of LWD will have noticed a decline in productivity. (And a good thing too, do I hear someone say?).

    Like it or not, I hope to resume normal service in the near future after a teaching assignment which has yielded some nice insights (reported in the last two posts).


  2. Cordell says:

    I wouldn’t classify Steven into any of the 3 categories – if you took out the word outstanding I would agree – just another business leader. I am not against the bonuses that are benig paid out, as I understand that to return the borrowed money to the coffers RBS (and others) need to keep the people who bring in the profits. This idea that RBS (and others) can magically retain the people who are accustomed to earning a certain amount will magically work for a tiny percentage of it (and my understanding is that bonuses make a large portion of their wages) is too naive for me.
    I understand the frustration with what seems to be paying for poor decisions and poor results based on the overall outcome and on the crisis in the first place, but I also understand that if we want to “get our money back” then we need god people in key positions to deliver the profits that willl allow repayment to happen, whenever it happens.
    We should stop thinking of this in the short term (what seems a “western” problem) and start thinking about the idea that we could actually end up beter off because of this – if they pay it back with profit as suggested in the video.

  3. tudor rickards says:

    Thanks for this.  I rarther agree thsat SH is not a villain.  Maybe there was something courageous if not heroic in the job he took on.  He seems to be making rather more sure-footed moves than most enbroiled in the credit crisis. Regards, Tudor—–“” <> wrote: —–To: “” <>Date: 03/19/2010 09:00PMSubject: [Leaders We Deserve] Comment: “Steven Hestor: Villain, hero, or just an outstanding business leader? ”

  4. Cordell says:

    Courageous yes, although I am sure his pay packet will compensate for the struggles he faces. Heroic I would say not, he would have to make significantly more mipact for me to accept heroic…

  5. tudor rickards says:

    Dear Cordell,

    The thing about dialog is how it sharpens our self-understanding. Yes I see the point. No, I’m sticking to heroic, although I like the distinction. Perhaps it’s a British thing with a bit more irony in it than I realized, hinting at a clutural enthusiasm for the gallent loser whose attempts we describe as heroic (as in: “I got the kids up in time for School every day this week” “That was a pretty heroic thing to do”). After all, the term has already taken on literary nuances when applied to a business leader (compare: ‘Our beloved leader’.

    Warmest regards,


    [Leaders We Deserve] Comment: “Steven Hestor: Villain, hero, or just an outstanding business leader? ” to: tudor.rickards 20/03/2010 09:55

    Please respond to comment+pkos0zkyt9cxpw2v

  6. Tudor says:

    Not sure if this should be a reply or a new comment. I just appreciated this and all of your comments which seem to me to add value (even if we disagreed over some points). I just came across a vast number of posts, all posted roughly simultaneously. Some were computer-generated garbage, and the others wre offering unconvincing routes to a better sexual life. Took the decision to delete both variants. .


  7. hest says:


    […]Steven Hester: Villain, hero, or just an outstanding business leader? « Leaders We Deserve[…]…

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