Tim Cook makes the case for an inclusive workplace

November 4, 2014

Paul Hinks

So Tim Cook is gay. The announcement wasn’t so much about the ‘outing’ of Tim Cook, as a message that openly supports diversity and equality in the workplace. The fact that Tim Cook is CEO of Apple, America’s largest firm, adds gravitas to the story.

Race, gender, age, disability, sexual preference are all topics with which organizations have to grapple. Firms are keen to demonstrate they are operating a diverse and ethical workplace where everyone has their fair chance regardless of their personal circumstance or outlook. Perhaps too many firms ‘talk the talk’ with the aim of ticking a box in a corporate brochure?

Tim Cook’s announcement provides an authentic message that Apple is an organization that understands the importance of providing support to ‘their most important asset’. Harnessing different perspectives from a diverse workforce provides a win:win – people with different values and background see things differently from those who are turned into generic corporate clones – walking and talking a certain way – it can all become a bit a dull, boring and predictable. Tim Cook’s announcement is not about him per se; it’s about promoting equality and diversity – and perhaps re-enforcing a culture that can provoke creativity and innovation.

Tim Cook has never denied being gay, but he is acknowledged and recognized as being a private individual. So to publicly make a statement about a private and personal matter, and then place the context of the statement around support for others deserves credit and recognition.

The New York Times provided insight and a deeper perspective:

As Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, put it, “He’s chief executive of the Fortune One. This is Tim Cook and Apple. This will resonate powerfully.”

Mr. Cook was plainly reluctant, and, as he put it in his essay in Bloomberg Businessweek, “I don’t seek to draw attention to myself.” But, he wrote, he came to the realization that “If hearing that the C.E.O. of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

Mr. Cook’s essay also seemed carefully drafted to be inclusive, to embrace anyone who feels different or excluded, which could broaden its impact far beyond the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Mr. Cook was “wonderfully candid about why it was difficult for him to come out,” said Kenji Yoshino, a constitutional law professor at New York University and co-author of “Uncovering Talent: a New Model for Inclusion.”

“When I give presentations on diversity and inclusion in organizations, I often start by noting that of the Fortune 500 C.E.O.s, 5 percent are women, 1 percent are black and zero percent are openly gay,” Professor Yoshino said.

In his essay, Mr. Cook wrote that he was many things besides being gay: “an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic.” Professor Yoshino noted: “When Drew Faust became the first female president of Harvard, she made a similar point. ‘I am not the woman president of Harvard,’ she said. ‘I’m the president of Harvard.’ ”

Apple’s future success

Since taking over the leadership of Apple from Steve Jobs in 2011, Tim Cook has demonstrated that he can successfully pilot the largest corporation in America. Tim Cook is not Apple’s ‘gay’ CEO, he’s Apple’s current and successful CEO.

In terms of competitiveness, Apple is currently riding the crest of a wave. The recent product launch of the iPhone 6 broke all records – so there’s no obvious need for a cheap publicity stunt. Tim Cook’s announcement shouldn’t be seen much as statement about himself, rather his statement symbolises the importance of providing an inclusive, diverse and stimulating workplace, one which supports new ideas, aims to look at the same situation from different perspectives – a culture true to Apple’s values – one which fosters creativity and innovation.

In the future, perhaps Tim Cook’s announcement will be reflected upon as the time when Apple took a leadership position in supporting diversity and equality in a positive and effective way. It will be interesting to see how many other industry leaders follow Mr Cook’s lead.

Sinking of ‘Boris Island’ upsets Boris Johnson

September 4, 2014

Boris Island Nightmare

by Paul Hinks

Charismatic leader Boris Johnson, current Mayor of London, vented his anger and frustration at the announcement that plans for an island airport [Boris Island] in the Thames Estuary have been rejected

Boris has been a strong advocate of the ambitious proposal to build a new £100bn London airport in the River Thames Estuary – a proposal effectively dismissed by Sir Howard Davies who has headed-up a commission set up by the government to consider ways of expanding airport capacity:

“We are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs. “While we recognise the need for a hub airport, we believe this should be a part of an effective system of competing airports to meet the needs of a widely spread and diverse market like London’s. There are serious doubts about the delivery and operation of a very large hub airport in the estuary. he economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount”

Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, saw an opportunity for a political handbagging: “This back-of-a-fag-packet scheme was designed less for the country’s economic future and more for the omnishambles mayor’s political ambitions.”

Limitations of charisma?

While Boris may have charisma in abundance – not everybody is completely mesmerized and following his lead. The Daily Mail reported that the Airline industry backed the announcement by Sir Howard Davies:

“Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives, said: ‘Airlines were never convinced that the Thames Estuary was either affordable or a convenient location for the majority of their customers.’Since airlines and their passengers will ultimately have to pay for the development costs of the selected expansion site then the business case must stack up in order for the UK to remain globally competitive. ‘We call upon Boris to support the important work of the Airports Commission and ensure that the right decisions are made about Heathrow and Gatwick.”

Cameron’s dilemma

The latest setback from Sir Howard Davies highlights how Johnson’s approach can leave him isolated:

“The Mayor ran this scheme up a flagpole in a very public way and very, very few people have saluted. So he has his point of view, but it is not widely shared.”

If David Cameron win the next general election, and Mr Johnson is successful in running as MP for Uxbridge, Boris has already indicated he will not accept the decision by the government’s airport commission, and instead will keep battling for it and will oppose the expansion of Heathrow or Gatwick as “unachievable” This may be seen as a great example of Boris’ tenacity and determination. Or an example of how Boris can create his own problems. The Telegraph offered another perspective:

Mr Johnson added his name to the list of prospective Tory candidates for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015, just 48 hours before the deadline closed. However, the constituency in west London contains thousands of voters who work at Heathrow who would fiercely oppose Mr Johnson’s candidacy.

Mr Johnson believes Heathrow should be turned into a “tech city” so that the capital’s main airport can be moved out of the city and on to a floating island in the estuary. Local Conservatives, however, were delighted with Mr Johnson’s application.

Ray Puddifoot, the leader of Hillingdon Borough Council, told the Telegraph: “He rang me to say he has put his application in – ‘whacked it in’ were his exact words. He said he has affinity to the place and is looking look forward to the process.
“I think he would make an excellent MP. He is a major asset to the party nationally, he will have to prove he is an asset in the constituency.”

Future ‘Leaders We Deserve’ posts

As we move closer towards the next General Election we can expect to see and hear more of Boris and his opinions,LWD We will be updating this post, so subscribers should monitor future changes

Low Status High Security: lessons from the Snowden case

August 19, 2013

By John Keane

The Snowden case has drawn attention to a characteristic of espionage in an electronic age in which high security information is accessible to security-cleared contractors of relatively low status

The phenomenon of electronic espionage by low-status contractors is becoming increasingly discussed after several high-profile leaking stories, which for shorthand sre being labelled as wikileaks. The BBC noted recently that the conditions are well-known, but little has been done to address the problem. The article points to the need to grant contractors high security status. They cite the large consulting firm Booz Allen as having remarkably high numbers for staff cleared for accessing Government information. Of its 25,000 staff, nearly half have security clearance to top secret class information. These are the ranks from which Edward Snowden emerged.

A leadership dilemma

Security analysts recognize that the management of vast information flows requires considerable back-up support. I think of it as a wormhole in the blogosphere through which data can slip. In principle, the dangers can be reduced by greater care in allocating access to highly sensitive data. In practice we have a leadership dilemma of the electronic age.

The author

This post is written by Dr John Keane of Urmston University in Northern England where he teaches and researches into leadership and the history of economics. The views expressed are those of the author.

Home secretary Theresa May creates a new Border security force

February 21, 2012

Theresa May announces a restructuring of the Border Agency. Her announcement coincided with release of the Vine report into border security checks. The links between the report and the Home Secretary’s announcement seem rather loose

Although the Vine Report into Border Security and the Ministerial announcement were made simultaneously, they are quite different in focus.

The Minister indicates that she accepts “all the recommendations of the report”, but makes it less clear that her proposal is not based on the report, which offers operational ‘fixes’ rather than strategic ones.

The ministerial announcement concentrates on a reorganization which splits the Agency into two. In organizational terms it is an attempt to differentiate structures and activities to reflect a major distinction between two groupings. The Vine report is strictly operational, and makes no strategic recommendations.

The BBC reported the announcement by the Home Secretary [20th Feb 2012] :

“The Vine report reveals a Border Force that suspended important checks without permission; that spent millions on new technologies but chose not to use them; that was led by managers who did not communicate with their staff; and that sent reports to ministers that were inaccurate, unbalanced and excluded key information. The Vine report makes a series of recommendations about how to improve the operation at the border, and I accept them all. I do not believe the answer to the very significant problems exposed in the Vine Report is just a series of management changes.
The Border Force needs a whole new management culture. There is no getting away from the fact that UKBA, of which the Border Force is part, has been a troubled organisation since it was founded in 2008. From foreign national prisoners to the asylum backlog to the removal of illegal immigrants, it has reacted to a series of problems instead of positively managing its responsibilities.
The extent of the transformational change required – in the agency’s caseworking functions and in the Border Force – is too great for one organisation. [The Border Force is to] become a separate operational command, with its own ethos of law enforcement, led by its own director general, and accountable directly to ministers”

How to Create Organizational Silos

MBA students will recall how this sort of change has major organizational consequences which have been well-documented since at least the 1960s. They may also recall the dilemmas of centralizing and decentralizing control over business activities, and how any such differentiation risks creating organizational ‘silos’.

How to Deal with Potential Silos

Implicitly, the change will not work if it adds a layer to what may be seen as a classical organizational pyramid. The traditional structures are now recognised as too inflexible to function in fast-changing environments. In any change programme, the new system requires designed-in ways permitting integration so that there is valuable communication flow between the two sub-systems.

To be continued …

See background in an earlier LWD post

EU Crisis Summit leaders take an historical step to reshaping the European Union

December 10, 2011

The Brussels summit avoided the disaster scenario of spooking the world’s financial markets. International reaction suggests a triumph for Angela Merkel, and more isolation for the UK’s position in Europe

In the UK, the story was presented as David Cameron heading to Brussels to fight (‘like a British Bulldog’ he assured his anti-European MPs) for British interests.

An internal dilemma

He is seen as struggling with a leadership dilemma of protecting his position against those in his own Party who would like radical moves to regain sovereignty from ‘Europe’

Foam-flecked warriors

His most vehement opponents to the European project are sometimes described as obsessive to the point of madness. A more balanced account of the anti-European perspective comes from the Right Wing Spectator under the title Dave’s big push.

The Mercozy plan

The entire crisis has been reduced in the UK to a story of one dominant leader, Angela Merkel imposing a German vision of the future of Europe achieving (perhaps reluctant) acceptance by Nicholas Sarcozy. This is the ‘Mercozy plan’ as it was being called this week.

The fall-back position

David Cameron arrived and opposed the plan seeking concessions. This seems to have been anticipated by the majority of other leaders. He was quickly rebuffed. A Press statement by Sarcozy made it clear that unanimity among all 27 leaders would be not necessary. Agreement within the 17 members of the Eurozone (countries with the Euro currency)would be possible, even if it meant excluding any of 10 additional members of the European Union who had not espoused the common currency. In the event, only Britain chose to be excluded.

The Wall Street Journal captures the story at the end of the first day [Friday 11th Dec 2011]

European Union leaders failed to get all of the bloc’s 27 members to back a change in the EU treaty to tighten their fiscal coordination as a decisive summit in Brussels ended its first day in the early hours Friday [Dec 9th 2011]. The leaders, who are still deeply divided over key elements of their crisis strategy, decided they would move to form a pact among at least 23 of the members to tighten rules on fiscal policies.

But details of the proposed treaty remained to be settled. The U.K. stood aside —after Prime Minister David Cameron failed with what officials said was a “shopping list of demands” designed among other things to protect national supervision of its banks—while Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic reserved their positions.

An Asian perspective suggested that the crisis in Europe had for the moment left China curiously more as a spectator than a major player in the economic outcome.

Debt-infested Europe

In India, a fall in its currency was attributed problems in the debt-infested region of Europe:

The Rupee ..was weighed down by pessimistic investor sentiments over growing concerns ahead of a summit later in the day to tackle the region’s festering debt crisis.

Decisions and outcomes

Exit David Cameron to polarized opinions in the UK. Within hours, the isolation of his position was clear as the leaders of the other 26 European countries of EU committed to action.

Immediate international reaction suggested that Angel Merkel’s view (even her ‘vision’) prevailed. The summit an agreement which at least averts the immediate fiscal chaos within the Eurozone.

Cameron’s ‘poor gamble’

The New York Times later evaluated the outcome as follows:

David Cameron [has been perceived as having] made a poor gamble in opposing the push by Mrs. Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, embittering relations and possibly damaging his standing at home. Though some other countries, including Denmark and Hungary, initially shared Britain’s skepticism of the German-led agreement, only Britain ultimately rejected it.

To be continued…

Betfair’s Leadership Dilemma

July 4, 2011

Betfair faces a tricky leadership dilemma. Its CEO David Yu has taken the blame for its poor financial performance since its public launch last year. Will a change of leader address the problems which the company faces?

Background to Betfair launch and LMAX

The Telegraph outlines the leadership issue:

Shareholders are understood to have expressed their dismay at the leadership of the company after a gruelling nine months that have seen shares floated at £13 last October [2010] hit a recent £7.16 low [June 2011]

American CEO David Yu was Betfair’s chief technology officer before becoming chief executive in early 2007. The floatation required his technological skills in dealing with a financial innovation (LMAX) at the heart of its business model. This was explained at the launch of LMAX [October 2010].

Betfair, the world’s leading sports betting exchange, established LMAX and is the majority shareholder in the platform. Betfair changed the sports betting market by allowing its customers to trade against each other and invented the first truly successful exchange model for sports betting. The LMAX exchange solution, which has been developed over several years of rigorous research and development, is based on Betfair’s original matching engine but has applied and refined this model for financial trading, alongside proprietary and scalable in-house technology.

David Yu resigns

A further analysis from the Telegraph outlines the backround to Mr YU’s resignation

Brought to market by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital and Numis Securities, Betfair has struggled to grow revenues and been hit by a range of regulatory problems, executive departures and the poor performance of its start-up LMAX financial exchange. In a recent note, Vaughan Lewis, a Morgan Stanley analyst, said: “Betfair has faced what we see as a perfect storm since listing.” He highlighted “adverse regulatory changes”, including an attempt by Italy to revoke Betfair’s licence and a draconian approach from Germany.

Having seen quarterly sales growth of 22pc at the time of the float, Betfair had also “effectively stopped growing”, while losing market share to rivals such as William Hill and Paddy Power. The leading internal candidate to replace Mr Yu is thought to be finance director Stephen Morana.

The Leadership Dilemma

Mr Yu’s resignation may be an opportunity for the company to introduce change alongside the appointment of a new leader. The difficulties may well be associated with the leadership of Mr Yu, but the core of the business model relied on his technical knowhow. The corporate ad campaign was memorable as a way of betting by cutting out the middleman and ‘betting fair’ between individuals (with a no-risk fee to Betfair, who is somehow represented as not being a middle man).

The euphemism

But will an internal candidate will be able to suggest a way out of the wider set of problems including those euphemistically labelled as “adverse regulatory changes” by Morgan Stanley? Will a radical new business model convince investors to stay the course?


The BBC followed up the story

On Wednesday afternoon [JUne 29th 2011] its shares were up 0.2% after Betfair also announced that it would now return money to shareholders by buying £50m worth of its stock. Betfair’s betting exchange model allows its customers to bet against each other, bypassing the need for a bookmaker.

Mr Yu said: “The past 12 months have seen significant change at Betfair as the business continued to grow and made the transition to being a public company. “A huge amount has been achieved during the period, and I’m delighted that we have more customers than ever resulting in a record number of bets placed and that we’ve reported record revenue and profitability. Despite these successes, revenue growth… could have been stronger but we have delivered a significant improvement in margin resulting in profitability for the year above expectations.”

Mr Yu said on Monday that he would not renew his contract when it expired in October 2012, but he is expected to leave the company before that date.