The debacle that is playing out with Barclays is an extraordinary example of poor leadership and should be written as a textbook example of how not to get it right!
I can only go by what I see and read like anyone else, but from what I have seen I can predict that books will be published about how a venerable brand that has been held in high esteem for many years can come crashing down – perhaps irretrievably!
Of course we are just observing the fallout, not the cause, but even that has been disastrous. The Chairman steps down but the man who runs the business clings on until it is impossible to continue doing so.
What message is that giving out to the public, shareholders and staff?
What does that say about leadership in that organization?
As leaders we must take responsibility for what goes on in our business and on our watch, and this looks like a blatant attempt to have the “scapegoat” served up and the rest of us stay put!
When we take up the role of leader, those that we lead look to us to at least:
- Take responsibility for what happens to the organization we are to lead. Look after it, mind it, grow it and nourish it
- Create a culture that fits with our stated and articulated values
- Be trustworthy.
Recent events at Barclays show that leadership in these areas appears sorely lacking.
For anyone in leadership it is incumbent upon us to mind, grow and cherish that organization so that when we pass the baton on, it is in better shape than when we got it. Of course, things can go wrong, but it is how you deal with those issues that you will be judged upon. It is not to drive the business for short term or personal gain.
Bob Diamond defined culture some time ago as “how people behave when you think no one is watching” and I would agree with that. Somehow those words seem hollow right now.
Leaders are responsible for the culture that exists in an organization – not the culture they say they aspire to, but the one that is actually in place. The leader, and the entire management team, are fully responsible for the culture – they, after all, have modeled the way.
The culture we model better be the appropriate one.
Leaders must be trustworthy.
A business that is not trusted is dying on its feet. If you lose the trust of your customers, your staff, your shareholders or the public, then you really are going nowhere.
If a leader cannot be trusted, then there is no leadership and certainly no future for that particular leader!
This is a sad and sorry tale, but let’s not just point the finger and “tut! tut”. Barclays will have to sort their own mess out but how do we all stand as leaders if asked to account for our leadership under the headings of responsibility, culture and trust?
What lessons can we take? What do you think of this mess?