I have been fortunate in my career to have had some great bosses . In one of my early roles in HR I worked for John, who had in his office a poster which I have never forgotten. It showed a lion sitting in a tree haughtily surveying its territory, with the words: “What I want is all of the power and none of the responsibility” .
The point of the poster of course was to reinforce the opposite sentiment: that within organisations power and accountability should sit hand in hand. The lion may be the King of the Jungle, but that does not make him a great leader!
The headlines we have seen over recent weeks about the hacking scandal, the calls on executives of News International, and others, to resign, the subsequent resignations of Rebekah Brookes and now Sir Paul Stephenson all lead to questions about accountability.
Behind the headlines and the politics sits the critical issue about the responsibilities that leadership brings. Leaders of organisations, the way they work and the way they do things, in turn set the tone for their organisations.
A good leader will understand that they are accountable for “the way we do things around here”. They will concern themselves with the culture of the organisation and with the systems and processes that support it. They will see it as part of their job to make sure they understand what is going on and how things are being done across the organisation. Of course, in large organisations it is more difficult to keep that “finger on the pulse”. That is why it is important to have good monitoring systems and other working practices in place to provide a clear picture.
HR has an important role to play here. If the organisational culture has drifted, if middle and line managers are not clear about expectations of them on how things should be done, it is HR’s role to identify and draw attention to that. HR is in a strong position to “hold up the mirror” to the organisation and its leaders and we need to be confident in our ability to do that.
Leaders will always be accountable and responsible for what goes on in their organisations. They must therefore set clear expectations of senior, middle and line managers and they must establish a clear line of sight through the organisation to satisfy themselves that those expectations are being met.
With the scale of change now taking place in our organisations, there is a very real risk that these things could get out of alignment. So, think hard about your own organisation: if you were holding up the mirror to your senior leaders today, what would they see?
Until next week,