You get your dream job in the company you’ve worked for for 30 years and then begin to realise that something is wrong. At the same time, you’re an Englishman in Japan, there’s a suspicion that the local mafia are involved, and the people around you deny it all. You are advised to ‘just get on with your work’ and start worrying that there’s a fatal accident is around the corner.
So what do you do? Well, in the case of Michael Woodford of Olympus where all this really happened, you eventually turn from Corporate President and CEO to Company Whistleblower knowing that the fate of most whistlblowers is not great. Although Woodford has emerged unscathed with £10mil compensation, a book and possibly a film, these would have meant nothing if he had ended up having ‘jumped’ off the roof of the Olympus HQ.
The story is clearly more dramatic than the dilemmas that face most of us, but still illustrates one of the difficulties of being in a leadership position:
How brave are you going to be when a difficulty emerges?
We don’t usually talk about the need for bravery in the context of leadership, but stories like this and many others, highlight that leadership is not just about inspiration, vision, enthusiasm, and so on, but has darker sides that also need to be recognised.
As a simple example, last week a colleague and I ran on a course about ‘influence in the board’ during which we discussed how easy it would have been to challenge Fred Goodwin on his RBS proposal to buy ABN Amro. Even though the board members were all independent, many commentators give the impression that it would have taken a great deal of strength to oppose his ambition.
The more common question for the rest of us is about all forms of challenge – are we brave enough to challenge any strong character whether they are our boss, our peer or our PA? And if not, where does that bravery come from if we are to up our game as a leader?
Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingthedeepfield/2959431031/”>Angela Radulescu</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>