Conference 2012: John Harris – Selection, coaching and mentoring
Harris, John. “Organisational leadership is a moral activity. It is about obligations and confronting rather than avoiding ethical dilemmas. An organisation’s culture is a Main Board responsibility.
Chair Steering Group, Daedalus Trust
John began by saying that his talk would be a little different from the others as it is from a very personal perspective, about success, unlocking potential, and developing confidence as well as bullying, porn and murder.
He suggested it was all common sense, but that common sense isn’t very common, citing an institution buying a bank without doing proper due diligence, a senior executive declaring “I want to get my life back” when his company had just left 11 people dead, and mortgage providers lending customers more than the value of a house without checking their ability to pay.
The leader of an organisation sets the tone, culture and reputation and their style will be determined by their values and above all else their behaviour. Leaders have status, authority, power, support staff, expense account, salary and bonuses, lifestyle and lawyers to protect it, so little wonder if life in this ‘bubble’ causes personality and behavioural changes.
A friend of John’s had a successful banking career until she questioned the very high targets set by a new boss. She was let go almost immediately at a cost of over a million pounds. Not long afterwards the new boss was fired for not delivering but landed a job in another bank – and so the saga goes on – who pays for all this – at the end of the day it’s you and me!
In this sort of culture whistle blowers get fired, accountants who won’t sign off the accounts get moved. Questioning is seen as dissent or sabotage yet it is essential. How do you resist becoming disconnected from the real world and avoid the perils of Hubris? Lehman Brothers’ former CEO was apparently nicknamed the Gorilla and proudly had a stuffed gorilla in his office.
Organisational leadership is a moral activity. It is about obligations and confronting rather than avoiding ethical dilemmas. An organisation’s culture is a Main Board responsibility. As an engineer John said he firmly believes that what isn’t measured isn’t managed, but sees the recent infatuation with highly focused targets and bonus achievement solely linked to numbers as out of balance.
Highly specific quantifiable targets have often caused people to narrow their span of attention, lose their moral compass and with the wider context.
Download notes of the address here: Selection, coaching and mentoring
Download the PowerPoint here: SelectionCoachingMentoringTB