Fixing the BBC Sports Web Site: Part 2

October 31, 2016

Three Leaders We Deserve subscribers made further contributions to the recent post dealing with the challenges facing the BBC in changing its Sports web-site

Contributors: Paul Hinks, Susan Moger and Conor Glean

Paul:

September 1 2016

I really enjoyed your blog about the BBC commentary of the Olympics in Rio. In terms of the BBC generally I’m a big fan -great value, still a world class service and still a leader in my opinion – but I agree with the sentiment of your blog.  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

The BBC sports website needs to do better.

Great Britain is a sporting nation – we are passionate sporting participants – and equally passionate spectators. What I liked about the Rio coverage was the way the BBC celebrated success in a genuine (un-British stiff upper lip way). You captured this observation perfectly in your blog.

In terms of the other BBC products – there perhaps is room for improvement. I see the BBC website as a flagship product. It would be great to see the BBC deliver more innovation and creativity in a way that provided genuine engagement but also provided expert high quality analysis. This is not an easy achievement, and perhaps one that is easy to highlight when absent, but easy to overlook when present.

The BBC is almost a de facto home page for news, sport, politics, weather, etc.  It has credibility that provides the benchmark for others to reach, yet like you, I’ve also noticed their sports section has really weakening over the past year or so.

Navigation is less intuitive. Content and coverage is thinner than previously noted. There’s a move to media clips rather than written script. The media clips haven’t quite worked out in my opinion. There’s just too many of them, and again the quality and depth is often lacking. It’s a shame because the BBC still beats Sky hands down in my opinion.

The bigger picture for me is that while the Internet maybe (has) disrupted journalism – there is a risk that the quality high-end coverage is being lost/eroded.

We’ve already seen printed press struggle to compete against ‘free’ online coverage – and yet often the online material is a poor imitation of the quality broad sheet journalism that provides carefully positioned arguments from alternative perspectives.

I’ve mentioned previously that this is where I see huge value add in LWD. LWD is very high quality material Tudor – and yet it’s almost a public service. There’s other high quality sites out there too. I suspect they also face the same dilemmas. [Thanks: The editor]

There’s a paradox within IT. Information Technology is inherently extremely complex with many dimensions to it. It is expensive to run and operate – and yet the perception is that IT is free and should be very easy to use. I suppose the BBC faces the same dilemmas as the wider public sector in terms of how it justifies its budget. How do you keep squeezing more out of a forever diminishing pool of resources when expectations continue to rise? A very challenging proposition.

September 2 2016

Susan:

Thank you for such perceptive comments.  I agree with your observations; I think the sport section of the BBC website is really suffering because it is in many ways still following the template of a previous generation of sports reporting and I don’t think there is the resource, and possibly the understanding, about how to work with the website more effectively.  It’s like the established banks trying to offer digital services which are add-ons and not part of the bank’s DNA, as it were. Of course, Sky has set the standard and the expectations of what sports broadcasting now looks like.

I listen to the BBC World service a lot, and I think the same this is happening there; the budget cuts mean that there is a huge effort being made to get more with less and at the same time the ‘digitisation’ phenomenon hasn’t been embedded so it sits awkwardly with the more traditional offering.

The ‘new’ BBC website seems very clunky to me,  and it probably would have been better to have stuck with what they had.  For me the BBC stands for integrity of information and of presentation

I agreed that LWD now has a similar status in that its longevity and the breadth of coverage mean that it can be trusted and in these days, I think that is a very rare thing indeed!

September 4 2016

Conor:

Hi guys, my comments are somewhat echoing those already made but I feel that in a world of constant, instant headlines from the social media sphere, we are used to knowing ‘the box’ of what happens as it happens via a tweet from anyone (e.g. Serena withdraws from US Open) and expect ‘the contents’ (what, where, when why), which come from the news outlets and require time if to be done well, to come at the same rate – resulting in a diluted quality of story in order to be relevant.

I think this relates to the ease of use of the BBC sports website, because, although you can specify which sport you want, the number of ‘box’ headlines in all sports clutter not only that specific sport’s page, but the homepage, causing for what seems like a poorly put together site which confuses when it’s just trying to keep up with the demands of 2016 sporting journalism.

I don’t think that the issue is exclusive to BBC as (to my shame) I’m a sky sports news mobile app user and since not having a smart phone for the last few weeks, I downloaded the Sky Sports app on my friend’s phone to see an average rating of 1 5- 2 stars out of 5 (it was the only outlet I’d ever used so I didn’t notice if I was up to date or not). Also, when trying to find stories that I knew had broken during the transfer window on sky sports’ website as opposed to the app, I experienced some of the issues you have highlighted in using the BBC’s.

September 5 2016

Paul:

Great note by Conor with many relevant comments.

I agree that in general terms online coverage of events can improve – but equally I feel it’s important to highlight and acknowledge that technology – and how it enables the effective dissemination of information – has come a long way in a relatively short timeframe.

Mobile computing is here – it’s maturing quickly – but there is more to be done.

You make a good point in that the BBC is not alone in terms of opportunities for further improvements to its website – I still believe that the BBC could do more, but they should be given credit. The BBC site remains a leader in my opinion. Consumer expectations are being set higher all the time – it can be difficult to reconcile those expectations with the reality of here and now. Particularly in a world of finite/reducing resources.

The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.

Editor:

Thanks to Paul, Susan and Conor for these follow-up contributions to the earlier post. There seems to be consensus around several points The BBC retains the admiration of the contributors but as Paul put it:  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

All three note the difficulties of competing against sites with much larger budgets. Susan noted a similar problem with the BBC World Service.

Paul continued his defense of the BBC with his closing remark that The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.


Is it Openreach or overreach?

March 2, 2016

This week’s report by industry regulator Ofcom concludes that BT will retain control over the Openreach operation, but with changes to permit more competition. We examine the arguments for complete spin off of Openreach

This is a more modest proposal than that offered by a cross-party parliamentary group which was very much in favour of splitting off Openreach to counteract what it described as BT’s monopolistic features.

In the analysis by Paul Hinks published in LWD recently., Paul concluded that if Openreach is split off from BT, and starts to either compete with rivals, or offer technologies that align with specific customer/partner needs, then really we may just have new different challenges around agreed technology standards and regulation.

BT agreed, but I found its response unconvincing. It repeated the message of the necessity for the business to have the backing of its own its powerful resources. There is something rather chilling in its protectionist tone

A Personal View

Paul sets out the strategic issues, but I would like to offer a more personal view. The BT model reminds me of the Network Rail situation. Ideologically appealing as a way of improving the sluggishness of the predecessor, the nationalized British Rail. Rail users remain unimpressed by the new system with its complex regulatory mechanisms and lack of adequate coherence ‘joined upness’ of to help customers make valuable choices.

Living with Dynosaurs

My personal experiences of both dinosaurs have mostly been frustrating. A few years ago I was locked into an apparently irresolvable four party struggle between myself, Openreach, my ISP and BT to reconnect me to the Internet. By far the most customer friendly was the ISP. I was left with the distinct impression that Open Reach would be better able to deal with me if I switched to BT and its then developing broadband system.

It took six weeks to sort it out.

Discussions on twitter (thanks to access from my local library) revealed that I was far from alone in my dissatisfaction in particular with BT itself.

It may or may not be relevant to conflate this experience with my sense that the BT huge venture to inject competition into televised sport is not resulting in a better consumer service.

I await change, bur remain less than optimistic about the leadership of BT in the vital challenges of achieving a Great Leap Forward in the necessary information highways of Great Britain.

Is it Overreach with Openreach?

Regular LWD contributor Susan Moger, Senior Fellow in Leadership,at the Alliance Manchester Business School, suggests that Openreach may risk Overreach. She notes:

What strikes me is that in managing all these ‘moving parts’ BT is struggling to cope with the changing nature of its customer base and that of a modern organisation, which BT’s Openreach is.

A good Quality high speed broadband service is a MUST for everyone now, not a luxury. In its advertising, BT has raised its customers’ expectations enormously, and is now struggling to meet them, for whatever reason.
There also appears to be an intention to manage the Openreach business in the same manner as the ‘BT in the days of copper’ ie as a command and control organisation, and this may not be appropriate.

Openreach may be a separate organisation. However, given the massive investment made BT in sports broadcasting. there is still a possibility that BT is hoping that there might be a ‘contribution’ from Openreach at some stage. In any event, underperformance and overtly bad performance by Openreach can’t help the BT brand.

Meanwhile, Ofcom’s new director Sharon White signals that BT is still under scrutiny, although there are voices suggesting the proposals need to be clearer with more specific and measurable outcomes.


The Divestment of Openreach from BT is not a simple case

February 8, 2016

It would perhaps be easy to jump on the band wagon and champion the case for freeing Openreach from its parent BT, which according to the press is a given. But in fairness, both Openreach and BT deserve credit in areas

BT is a truly world class business. It is a leader. It has delivered (mostly) on its promise to provide the UK with its Information Super Highway. But yet more change and progress is sought after.

Better apart?

The proposal to divest Openreach from BT may bring more challenges than we have today opposite speed of change and progress. More complexity. More governance and regularity issues. Investment may actually stall rather than speed up. There are no guarantees that Openreach and BT will perform better independently, or indeed that others (business customers, partners, consumers) will benefit from a split.

Openreach is already functionally separate within BT. The challenge is whether Openreach operates in the spirit of openness, or whether it favours the agenda of its parent. Would an independent Openreach really deliver improved competition or speed up investment? Would the perceived rate of change and progress – the perception of more innovation actually be delivered delivered if Openreach were no longer ‘restricted’ by BT’s agenda, governance and control? Both BT and Openreach’s customer service are questionable, but where would the real alternative appear from?

I know some {LWD subscribers] who believe that BT does trade on its monopolistic position. Ordinarily most would condemn the incumbent as the bullying type leveraging their position for self-interest. Perhaps part of this argument is true. Listening to a BT video link, I note that the speaker does acknowledge that the competition [Sky, talk talk, Vodafone?] consider the BT Openreach relationship as unfair.  Perhaps this is natural position for them to take. Of course they would. They are the competition after all.

Depending on an individual’s perspective

Depending on an individual’s perspective, BT are cumbersome, inefficient, and an abuser of their monopoly position. Or perhaps they could be seen as actually being efficient, well run, and a true global leader in a competitive market place.

IF the UK is to continue to benefit from the technology infrastructure that Openreach has built and delivers to us, then perhaps one of the most important questions Openreach needs to ask itself is whether it is investing enough cash fast enough to align to customer demands and expectations.

I believe BT does recognise and acknowledge the challenge. In the video, the speaker states that customer demands are very high. The customer asks that Super-fast broadband is always available, from anywhere, from any device. Realistic expectations? Or difficult expectations to deliver?

How quickly can BT deliver the services that the customer and the market place are demanding. Are BT and Openreach driving change and progress quicklyy enough? Maybe not, but the problem is tempered and made more complex by the fact that BT is a commercial organisation and no longer a nationalised industry. Therefore, it is right to treat each major investment decision with the correct level of due diligence and moderation before overcommitting spend and investment to services that may not be commercially viable in the short term.

Major Investment is still needed

That said, it is still of question when, not if the investment is needed. The speaker in the video talks about maximising the use of the existing infrastructure using innovative technology to deliver high speed broadband without replacing with expensive fiber. This sounds like an equitable and sensible compromise.

Fiber based superfast broadband for all may well be the next major step, and an end goal – but we need to be sensible with expectations around timescales. Some of that investment and infrastructure has already been made and is available to some lucky users. For others perhaps in rural areas, they need to wait. These are the folk most likely to argue BT needs to do more, and faster too.

With faster greater bandwidth comes downstream opportunities for all. The popularity of new services would grow faster than at current rates – for example: the move towards On-Demand content could happen quicker. Cloud is now a mega-trend. I remain convinced Cloud computing will be seen as a separate computing paradigm. Openreach and BT do deliver the services that underpin downstream Cloud provision.

BT is adapting too

We can also flip the argument around. BT themselves are now delivering content and challenging Sky with BT Sports. I do believe that TV as we have known it will continue to change and be disrupted. Openreach are in some ways influencing and controlling the rate of change because of the overall dependency on bandwidth and superfast broadband.

I’m sure there will be a shift towards faster lines and that eventually the demand will be there to justify the investment and provide the requisite return on investment. Eventually it’s just a case of getting the business model right.

Conclusions

I suppose my concluding thoughts are that investment represents a double-edged sword for Openreach. There is no guarantee that consumers or big business will take-up new more expensive services with immediate effect. This is very much a generic business statement though. No investment comes with guarantees. It’s about understanding the risk versus the reward.

Greater speeds and more bandwidth are nice to have, but in our cost conscious world I too often hear the phrase ‘is the provision “good enough”– often the reality is yes. What we have today is good enough and meets our needs.

So there is a dilemma here. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Greater, faster investment from Openreach against the commercial reality and ‘guarantee’ of customer demand for new products.

If Openreach is split off from BT, and starts to either compete with rivals, or offer technologies that align with specific customer/partner needs then really we may just have new different challenges around agreed technology standards and regulation. These are the same issues that exist today, perhaps just in more complex forms.


Jose Departs: Reflections on Perceptions versus Reality

December 24, 2015

I'll be backLeaders We Deserve subscriber Paul Hinks reflects on the departure of Jose Mourinho ‘by mutual agreement’ from Chelsea Football club

 

For the second time in recent history, Chelsea Football Club have parted company with their most successful manager of all time: Jose Mourinho. The leadership style of the self-proclaimed Special One invites closer inspection.

Mourinho has often been referred to as charismatic – but what happens when charisma is not enough? when the leader fails to take others with them?

The Reality of Success

By the time Mourinho had left Chelsea “by mutual agreement” on Thursday [17 December 2015]  Chelsea were just above the Premier League relegation zone. They had lost 9 games already in their latest campaign, compared with just 3 games in the whole of the previous season.

This was not the form of a team capable of successfully defending their title – indeed this was unchartered territory for Chelsea who had previously successfully challenged for both domestic and European honours under the ownership and guidance of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Chelsea’s lowly position in the Premiership table was unexpected. Most commentators struggled to explain how a squad of players could falter so spectacularly in such a short period of time.

Perhaps success was not a formality after all?

Big players, Big money, Big reputations

 

For those unfamiliar with football, Jose Mourinho reputation precedes him. He is a world class football coach who’s consistently delivered success at some of the world’s top football clubs.

This track record of success at different clubs provides some evidence to help validate opinion that ‘Jose’ is the ‘Special One’ – a man with some ‘magic mystical ingredient’ that helps delivers success.

With the big stage comes the big personalities and the challenge of managing big player egos – the dilemmas associated with player self-interest and hidden agendas – players and their agents who may want to engineer a lucrative transfer to another club to invoke lucrative sign-on fees?

Or perhaps footballers wives and girlfriends who would prefer to shop and live in a more cosmopolitan and glamorous city?

The footballing landscape manifests unusual and perhaps unique situations that can make the life very complex and adds unwanted pressure.

Power versus Leadership

Speculation and rumours of tensions in the Chelsea dressing room suggest Jose has had serious difficulties this season. was already on the back foot. The tipping point was the defeat that Mourinho and Chelsea suffered playing away to unlikely Premiership leaders Leicester City on Monday 14th December 2015 – ultimately a catalyst for Mourinho and Chelsea to part-company.

The Daily Mail provided insight:

When Jose Mourinho returns to work on Wednesday, he will be confronted by a group of grumbling Chelsea players who are far from happy with his scathing post-match analysis at Leicester City.

Mourinho’s use of the word ‘betrayal’ to describe John Terry and Kurt Zouma’s defensive lapse when Jamie Vardy scored in the 34th minute at the King Power Stadium stripped the dressing room of its dignity.

He has lost these players now, destroying their self-esteem in his criticism of the champions, either publicly or privately. It is a toxic dressing room now.

 

Mourinho’s standards are high. He expects the best from his players. During press conferences Mourinho has previously referred to his team, or individuals’ in his team, as ‘Champions’. An example of how Mourinho’s emotional intelligence is always engaged. Equally when things aren’t going so well, Mourinho’s style falters.

So when the results are not going his way so the inquiry and inevitable speculation starts in to what has gone wrong with the Special One’s charismatic ways?

Hero to Zero?

Mourinho’s very public clash with Dr Eva Carneiro was a critical moment in Mourinho’s 2015 Chelsea season and a good starting point for analysis.

The Telegraph was one of many news agencies that reported on how the Chelsea doctor had rushed on to the pitch to treat an injured Chelsea player (Eden Hazzard) when Chelsea played Swansea on 8th August 2015.

In the end, Dr Carneiro left Chelsea FC, but the damage was done. Mourinho’s misjudgement and mishandling of a single event was a pivotal moment in Mourinho’s recent period in charge.

What next for Jose?

Mourinho’s teams have consistently delivered success in silverware, the currency that fans and owners of football clubs crave most. for: silverware. Mourinho is a successful football coach in commercial terms. However, with continued success comes the increased weight of expectation. On closer inspection Jose also can be seen to leave behind a less than healthy legacy in  human terms.

But the signs are that Jose may be out, but certainly not finished. The words of another charismatic, come to mind. “I’ll be back”.

 


Has Zukerberg gifted Facebook away?

December 17, 2015

 Mark Zukerberg creates headlines with his plans for creating a philanthropic trust with a  donation of shares worth forty five billion dollars. Paul Hinks examines the story for Leaders We Deserve

The headlines were dramatic.  The BBC reported: “Zuckerberg to give away 99% of his shares”. The Telegraph and others carried similar headlines. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have said they plan to donate 99 per cent of their shares in the social network to philanthropic efforts. Very commendable.

The stock, which is worth around $45bn, will be given to causes which “advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation” Zuckerberg said in an open letter on his Facebook page. That’s an impressive and massive statement of intent by any measure.

The Future needs to be better than today

Philanthropy is about driving sustainable, lasting, positive change – it’s not just about fixing the symptoms; rather the focus is on the root cause. It’s about making a difference, about shaping our future – the future. Being proactive, not reactive. It maybe as simple as that.  Zuckerberg has had enough fun, and now prefers to throw his substantial financial weight behind efforts to the world’s problems.

The Guardian provides another perspective:

Philanthropy perhaps comes naturally to tech entrepreneurs, for whom the line between saving the world and doing business is often blurred. When Google announced plans, for example, to use its computing power to sequence the gene for autism, was it trying to help humanity, or expand its empire into the life sciences industry, or actually both? But if you add the Zuckerberg-Chans’ $45bn to the $34bn distributed so far in grants by Bill and Melinda Gates’ personal foundation then America’s new computing dynasties start to resemble not so much individuals as nation states: rich and powerful enough to shape all our lives, even more than their software has already done. Only a churl would sneer at the Gates Foundation’s contribution to almost eradicating polio, reducing preventable deaths among children under five and distributing anti-HIV drugs.

Massive donations of wealth

So well done Mr Zuckerberg – but there remains areas which require further clarification to avoid the skeptics from detracting from the well-intended claims that your motivations are all good.

The Japan Times made the poignant observation: Mark Zuckerberg promises to give 99 percent of his Facebook shares to charity — eventually.

Exact phrasing: the stock, currently worth $45 billion, will be donated “during [his and his wife’s] lives.” He’s 31 and she’s 30, so actuarial tables being what they are, by approximately the year 2065. If Facebook or the Internet or the Earth still exist. There’s also the suggestion of creative tax avoidance and why Zuckerberg has opted to structure the massive donation of wealth through a Limited Liability Company (LLC). To help clarify the decision Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post that it will enable Chan Zuckerberg to: “Pursue our mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments, and participating in policy debates — in each case with the goal of generating a positive impact in areas of great need.” – explaining that any net profits that resulted from these investments would go back into supporting this mission.

A plausible and valid response to the deeper questioning.

The Tradition of Giving 

At first I found  Zuckerberg’s pledge incredible. It has the potential to drive change and progress in so many different areas. Indeed, there is so much disparity in society, so many problems and complex situations to address.

Perhaps Zuckerberg does understand that he is merely the trustee of all that wealth (and not the owner), and that wealth can – and should – be used to for the welfare of all, and in particular the disadvantaged?

It would be helpful to provide a clearer indication of the goals – an agenda for change; some transparency around the end goal. Otherwise cynics will wait for evidence that Mr Zuckerberg is moving at least partly towards escape free from the shackles of the shareholders.


By popular request: what happened to David Moyes?

April 25, 2014

MacBeth wikipediaThe dismissal of David Moyes as Manager of Manchester United in April 2014 was both expected and unexpected.

It was expected

It was expected when media reports [April 21st 2014] announced his imminent departure, days after a Premier League defeat of his team, confirming there would be no European Cup matches next season.

Campaigns for his removal were gaining pace from disgruntled fans through the media. By mid-afternoon, a perfect storm was brewing on Twitter. A few scraps of information were repeatedly retweeted. ‘Moyes sacked. Moyes is about to be sacked. Moyes will be sacked soon/at the weekend/at the of the season.’

It was unexpected

It was unexpected because despite the poor record of the team, Moyes had been appointed as the choice of the departing Manager, the iconic and hugely successful Sir Alex Ferguson. He was understood to have been chosen for the long-term. In an emotional farewell speech to a packed stadium at Old Trafford, Sir Alex urged fans to get behind the newly-chosen one. His own last season had been a triumph of psychology over the aging legs of his team which finished Premier League champions.

Neither expected nor unexpected considerations took account of the preoccupations of the owners of the club, the American entrepreneurs, the Glazers. Their financial model has been widely recognized as involving finance of a creative kind to reduce their entrepreneurial risks When results disappointed, Moyes would have been seen as adding to the riskiness of their investment. Ten months into his long-term contract, he was toast.

‘It were well done quickly ‘

The club confirmed through Twitter the following morning that Moyes had been dismissed. It turned out he had been told the news very early that morning.

The timing was said to have been chosen to meet the requirements of information released to investors on the NY Stock markets.

The hunt for red assassins

I was surprised at the extent of the coverage of the story locally and globally. The early print editions of the British media had given it high visibility on the sports pages, writing as if his immediate dismissal was certain before the official announcement.

The early morning news bulletins followed suit, clearing the way for interviews with assorted pundits and players. When the news broke, the hunt for the assassins began. MacBeth morphed into Julius Caesar.

The poisoned chalice

Someone contacted me suggesting I should write about the poisoned chalice that David Moyes had received. Or hospital pass, I replied, remembering a tweet I received on the topic. Incidentally, the poisoned chalice is mentioned in the soliloquy by MacBeth which begins ‘if it were done when tis done….’

Another colleague wondered whether Moyes had indicated through his body language that he was not convinced that he was up to the job? Maybe, although there is something of a catch 22 around that line of questioning. Any authentic leader would recognize the foolishly high expectations of the fans on match day and as the game was being played. Anyone with super confident body language would likely be deluded or faking it.

The routinization of charisma

I go back to the pronouncement of Sir Alex regarding the appointment of his successor. In leadership terms, the former leader was deploying his emotional credit banked with the fans. It is known as an attempt to achieve the routinization of charisma. Sir Alex had acquired enormous credibility for his near miraculous powers of leadership. Much was attributed to the mystique of his charismatic personality. In practice, dilemmas arise, not least as the fans/followers reflect more rationally over the credibility of the replacement.

This analysis does not investigate the motives behind the appointment of David Moyes. Nor does it reflect on his tactical judgements of team selection and on-field substitutions. I leave the former to speculation by media pundits, and the latter to the larger number of pundits also known as football fans. What does seem to make sense is that the leadership issues at Manchester Unite can hardly be reduced to a simple error of judgement either in the selection of David Moyes, or in his dismissal.

Acknowledgements

To Susan Moger, Paul Haslam, Paul Hinks, Keven Holton, Ewan Leith, who were among colleagues who encouraged me put some ideas down for discussion on this fascinating leadership issue. To Wikipedia for the poster image of MacBeth.

Watch this space for further updates

April 25, 2014

Edward Spalton says:

Probably the best comment on this episode was by Richard North of eureferendum.com. that UKIP should try to recruit Moyes because he got United out of Europe in ten months.


Antonio Horta-Osorio: Charisma and the fate of the heroic leader

January 8, 2012

by Paul Hinks

Antonio Horta-Osorio returns to his position as a CEO of Lloyds Bank on 9th Jan 2012 after his break suffering from serious fatigue and insomnia. It seems that even charismatic leaders suffer human weaknesses

When Lloyds Banking Group appointed Antonio Horta-Osorio as CEO in March 2011, they looked beyond their immediate internal pool of talent. What leadership traits were apparent in Mr Horta-Osorio, and not immediately obvious in an internal candidate?

A serial achiever

Mr Horta-Osorio’s impressive CV suggests he is a serial achiever; an individual whose energy is infectious, and clearly somebody who is very passionate in his quest for success. In short, a charismatic leader. Such individuals can be portrayed as all-conquering, with boundless energy when persuing their passions, often supported by a highly impressive list of achievements. They often appear unstoppable in their quest for success.

The Special One of the Banking Industry

Described as ‘The Special One’ or ‘The Mourinho’ of the banking industry, Antonio Horta-Osorio’s is seen as energetic, enthusiastic and completely at the top of his game. So when Mr Hotra-Osorio took extended leave in November 2011 citing extreme fatigue, there was understandable interest and analysis from the media:

The move by Lloyds to appoint Mr Horta-Osorio as its CEO in March 2011 had initially been warmly received by various stakeholders, and yet just eight months later – with Lloyds missing Q3 2011 targets – Mr Horta-Osorio was sidelined on medical advice.

Antonio Horta-Osorio versus Insomnia

Previous to his medical leave, it was widely reported that Mr Horta-Osorio had not slept for five days. He’s not alone though. Other famous leaders including Margret Thatcher & Napoleon are reported to have survived on little sleep [but did they ‘thrive or dive’ on it? Ed.]

In an article published in The Independent Mr Horta-Osorio alluded to treatment that he’s undertaken. It also provided an insight into the seriousness of his condition:

Mr Horta-Osorio said it was his wife who urged him to seek help: “I sought medical advice and went to see a specialist. He told me that in effect my battery was so run down that it was virtually on zero. I went to the Priory for a week just to rest. Then I went home and was immediately sleeping eight hours a day. By then I felt extremely well and was telling the chairman I wanted to come back to work. I spent the next five weeks in London and Portugal and took a few restful trips.

The treatment involved medicine to help me sleep and I am still on mild doses of that, which I expect to come off in the next few weeks.”

Mr Horta-Osorio’s treatment was paid for under the bank’s private medical insurance. He was astonished to learn how common insomnia is. “The official figures are that 30 per cent of the population suffers from sleep deprivation at some time but my specialist told me it was more like 50 per cent,” he said.

Unanswered questions

It’s interesting to consider why Mr Horta-Osorio would suddenly find himself suffering from insomnia. Was the job just too big? Did he feel isolated or threatened in the board room? Did external (media) pressure contribute to increased pressure in the job? Could there have been more support internally?

Expectation levels were understandable high, perhaps Mr Horta-Osorio felt an unnecessary urge to prove himself to his new colleagues, perhaps establish a power-base before he could build trust?

It was only a false start

As 2012 unfolds, spare a thought for Mr Horta-Osorio as he re-evaluates his own priorities and leadership style. Perhaps Mr Horta-Osorio’s false start at Lloyds is another blow to the theory of ‘super-hero’ leaders . As The Telegraph reported “Working until you drop” is no way to run a company. More recently, The Telegraph ran an article where Mr Horta-Osorio acknowledges he needs to change his Leadership style and delegate more. Perhaps power and control will need to make way for more trust-based and distributed leadership?

About the author

Paul writes: “I work for a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard where my career to date has been focused in the Enterprise Computing space. I have experience of working with businesses that operate globally, and I find cultural diversity another interesting dimension of leadership.

I really look forward to exchanging views and opinions with readers of LWD. I first became aware of the website when studying the Global Events and Leadership module at Manchester Business School in Jan 2011. I’m increasingly curious about leaders and the dilemmas they face. I have interests in Business, Politics, Sport and Technology. Having started as a passive reader of LWD, I decided it was time to make a contribution”.