Monthly Archives: September 2012

Do we get the leaders we deserve?

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There are probably more theories about leadership than actual leaders. Entire continents of trees have met their death in the cause of books that try to identify what makes a good leader… The recent Hillsborough Disaster news and comment has once again, galvanised my mind towards the quality, skills and capabilities of leadership within our society.

Although the majority of my work-life experiences relate to the public sector, I’ve also a good deal of experience within the private sector. To a certain extent, the drivers for many of our leaders in the public and private sectors used to differ immensely but today, perhaps that divide has narrowed somewhat? 

Leadership – Profits before principles? According to the latest Index of Leadership Trust, managers are more interested in the bottom line than ethical behaviour – and that has an impact on how much we trust them…(Read more)

It’s hardly surprising that so many workers have such low levels of trust in their leaders and managers today, workforce and leadership priorities and drivers often appear a world apart. However to my mind, I don’t believe there should be any massive divide between good leadership and management skills in either sector.

But the clear line that what was once all about profit in the private sector and service in the public, compounded by the selling off of public services to commercial organisations, is now so blurred we have difficulty in getting our heads around all the real issues involved.

I had to agree with Inspector Gadget. He made it clear how sorry he was about the events of that day, even though he wasn’t even involved, nor was however; I feel the same, for mostly the same reasons.

Insp Gadget – I’m sorry for Hillsborough: I once heard a Townsend-Thoresen employee apologise for the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. He wasn’t on board but felt tainted by the mistakes. I now know what he meant…(Read more)

Like Gadget I also feel tainted, it’s a kind of transferred guilt by association thing, or at the very least embarrassment about being part of the same organisation which failed the public so badly, even though the events of that day had absolutely nothing to do with me.

But I have been part of that ‘Police Family’ and, like Gadget, it saddens and angers me when things aren’t done correctly. Like the public, I’m also angry when failings are disguised or covered up to protect anyone responsible for that failure, especially if it was intentional.

We should however remember; not all failure is intentional and not all failure is the ultimate responsibility of he/she who actually failed. But today, probably more so now than ever before, our public lynch mob mentality, drummed up to a frenzy by a caustic media, means someone simply has to be thrown to the wolves of accountability.

We also need to be aware; the skills, knowledge, training and capabilities of today’s emergency services are a world apart from what they were 20+ years ago. In short, we’re never happy until someone (or something) has been blamed for the thing we’re not happy about, even when the cause of our angst is sometimes, simply the result of our own actions or inactions.

It’s this systematic and constant criticism that has totally undermined and removed the last glimmers of public trust in policing and, to a lesser degree, support for the remainder of our emergency services. It’s that and the almost constant political diatribe and rhetoric about how “well off” or “protected” and “unaccountable” these services have become. I’m not suggesting for one minute that all police officers are squeaky clean and above reproach however; it is the setting of this stage of public perception that fuels the proliferation of such views. 

The police must no longer be immune from radical reform – The police must no longer be immune from radical reform. Hillsborough emphasises that the government must be bold in dealing with the last unreformed public service…(Andrew Rawnsley)

Rawnsley, like so many others, has allowed himself to stoop to some easy mud-slinging. But mud, like blood, is thicker than water; when it’s slung it sticks to all, irrespective of their ethics or (alleged) wrongdoings. The mostly unseen consequence of all this is; the ‘family’ under constant attack will naturally tend to become even more insular and self-protecting. The exact opposite effect to that which we’re (apparently) aiming to achieve?

For some time now I’ve also held the belief; we tend to get the type of leadership we deserve. Not only do we actually get the leadership we deserve but to a certain extent, we also tend to actively encourage, promote and replicate those traits in our leadership which we subsequently come to abhor, especially when things don’t go the way we want.

It’s good to see that Kevin Sampson, who can actually base his observations and comment upon first hand knowledge and experience of the disaster, remained a little more level-headed and stoic on many of the leadership and management issues involved on that day, and subsequently.

Hillsborough: I walked one way. The less fortunate walked another – Hillsborough was a tragedy that had deep roots in a highly divisive and confrontational 1980s Britain where ‘enemies within’ had been identified – not least in my home city of Liverpool…(Kevin Sampson)

That’s my view, what’s yours?

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