Turning a Blind eye and Situational Leadership
What business leadership lessons can be learnt from the resignation of the Director General of the BBC. The balance of delegation and direction?
On the one hand you have delegation and deployment of decision making to facilitate the empowerment, engagement of others while at the same time you are ultimately accountable. Is it to do with awareness of the state your company is in in real time and when in times of crisis you recognise it and have a plan of tighter control and review to be enforced?
As leaders you would never want to be accused of ‘turning a blind eye’ but a skill oft sought by leaders is that of delegation.
Delegation and empowerment of individual is very important in building an engaged and responsive organisation when the business is in steady state. (and that can be steady growth, decline or flat) but when change is happening and especially when change is not self-initiated the playing field is different
In many cases employees and staff, including senior managers, want and are reassured by much more direct control.
This is another case for continually having an external view on an organisation. One that in real time can say, things have changed, have you recognised them in real time and are you reacting to those changes. Now is the time for control, intervention and implementing another level of scrutiny, sign off and direction.
Leaders lead and people want to see leadership both loose and empowering but in crisis controlling, steady and re-assuring. There is not one style that is always best.
Leaders change with the situation. They are masters of situational leadership and the best react before others see the need for it.
The Today Programme Interview on Radio 4
JH: But you must have known what happened because a tweet was put out 24 hours beforehand telling the world that something was going to happen on Newsnight that night that would reveal extraordinary things about child abuse and that would involve a senior Tory figure from the Thatcher years. You didn’t see that tweet?
GE: I didn’t see that tweet, John, I now understand...
JH: Why not?
GE: Well I, uh, I check Twitter sometimes at the end of the day or I don’t check it at all.
JH: You have an enormous staff of people who are reporting in to you on all sorts of things – they didn’t see this tweet that was going to set the world on fire?
GE: Now John, this tweet, I’m afraid, was not brought to my attention, so I found out about this film after it had gone out...
JH: Nobody said to you at any time or to anybody on your staff who would then report to you, “Look, we’ve got this Newsnight film going out – Newsnight should already light a few bulbs with you surely but – we’ve got this film going out that is going to make massively serious allegations about a former senior political...” Nobody even mentioned it?
JH: Isn’t that extraordinary?
GE: Well, um, in the light of what happened here, I wish this had been referred to me, but it wasn’t and I have to... I run the BBC on the basis that the right people are put in the right positions to make the right decisions. Now, in this case the film was not signed off in Newsnight, legal advice was involved, it was referred to the right places in news management and further referral upwards was made...
JH: So, when did you find out?
GE: I found out about the film the following day.
JH: The following day? You didn’t see it that night when it was broadcast?
GE: No, I was out...
JH: But you have seen the film now I take it?
GE: Yes, I have seen the film now...
JH: When did you learn that there were doubts about [Mr Messham’s] testimony?
GE: I only found out yesterday when I saw him make his apology to Lord McAlpine that there must be doubts about his testimony.
JH: And you didn’t ask any questions during the course of the week? Because questions began to be raised very early on in the week as you know.
GE: No, John, I didn’t.
JH: Do you not think that you should have?
GE: I um... I... there are... the number of things that there are going on in the BBC mean that when something is referred to me and brought to my attention I engage with it...
JH: We now know Newsnight has failed massively on one programme and it has failed massively on another programme and it’s caused the BBC enormous damage. You, as you say, as Editor-in-Chief, are ultimately responsible. Therefore it leads to the obvious question: You should go, shouldn’t you?
GE: No John, I’ve been appointed the director-general, the director-general isn’t appointed only if things are going to go well, the director-general is appointed to deal with things which go well and things which go badly...