A death at the BBC

George Entwistle in Happier Times.
Photo: David Levene for the Guardian

So, after only 53 days as Director General, George Entwistle falls on his sword and resigns his leadership of the mighty BBC. The final straw seems to have been a grilling on the Today programme in which he once again came across as out of touch (See Blog 6th Nov 2012).

Worse still, he appeared to put the blame on his subordinates for not bringing things to his attention and indicated that it had been more important to write a speech than look into high-risk (to the BBC) issues. And to compound the problem, in the words of one newspaper, he “was hesitant and dithered” when giving his answers during the radio interview.

The warnings in this small vignette for any leader are legion. Clearly the importance of having one’s ear to the ground, particularly during periods of difficulty is emphasised. I have met many people in both small and large organisations that manage their boss by keeping information away from them. But this is usually because the boss uses the information badly. So whether being ill informed stems from not making it clear to your subordinates what you want to know, or from being kept in the dark as a result of alienating staff, there’s a leadership problem.

Equally significant in this case is the issue of organisational risk. While others in the business will manage risk, leadership is required to support risk being managed appropriately:

A vital task for any leader is a constant review of organisational risk.

As leaders, we often review Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and/or Critical Success Factors (CSFs), but how often do we take the wider view and review the organisation’s key areas of vulnerability?


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