In search of authenticity in a leader: should we start with politicians watching a televised football match?

May 31, 2012

David Cameron is claimed to be dropping in popularity for his inauthentic behaviours. An example is examined, based on his image as an “authentic” football fan complete with rolled-up sleeves, watching the transmission of the European football cup final with other world leaders

Andreas Whittam Smith of The Independent constructed an entire article around an episode taken as as evidence of the Prime Minister’s inauthenticity of leadership style.

Opinion over analysis

The piece was intended to provide opinion rather than deep analysis. In that respect it has a degree of authenticity. That did not prevent comments in reply which came with a great deal of anger directed at Mr Whittam Smith’s opinions of Mr Cameron, as well as counter-arguments about other politicians.

The article did seem to select some rather contradictory and selective examples to compare and contrast the authentic with the inauthentic. Boris Johnson and Francois Hollande were cited as authentic; Cameron and Sarcozy as inauthentic.

It would have been better to examine the evidence of inauthenticity beyond a simple either-or classification. However, the author of the piece captures one important point about authentic leadership:

What is going wrong for the Prime Minister, David Cameron? His personal standing with the electorate has fallen precipitously, according to opinion polls. I found a small clue to what may be doing the damage in one of the pictures of world leaders attending a summit meeting at Camp David outside Washington last weekend. They had taken time out to watch the Chelsea/Bayern Munich football match.

The photographers had snapped Mr Cameron leaping to his feet with arms outstretched to celebrate Chelsea’s winning goal. It was the football victory salute. What could be more natural? Chelsea had won the Champions League for the first time. Yet it reminded me of the mid-1980s when Mr Cameron was at school.

Was that Mr Cameron’s problem, I wondered? For false notes are damaging in politics, just as authenticity is a great asset.

The authentic leadership concept

There is considerable interest in authentic leadership among researchers at present. A special issue of Leadership Quarterly examined the concept.

A leading advocate is Harvard Professor Bill George, the former business leader, who argues for authenticity as a factor necessary for 21st century leadership.

But leaders may need to be inauthentic at times

The concept is not without its critics. It may be argued that authenticity of belief may be a secondary consideration in dealing with urgent crisis situations. (“He’s a greedy self-centred individual, but I’d want him with me in a tough corner”).

Put another way, leaders need a mask of command, a concept which may need to be considered within discussions of authentic leadership.

Acknowledgement

The image appeared in various cropped formats around the web. I fould this example of David Cameron, plus other easy-to-identify football fans at the moment of Chelsea’s triumph over Bayern Munich on the website of Nation.com Pakistan.

Note to subscribers

This blog written as the author prepares for renewal of home-office facilities. More to follow.

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It’s Curb a Cookie day: But are we ready?

May 26, 2012

May 26th 2012 is the day when the UK faces strict rules regarding the use of electronic tracking codes (“cookies”). But it seems unlikely that we are ready

Today is when the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) imposes an EU directive which says that sites must provide “clear and comprehensive” information about the use of cookies small files which allow a site to recognise a visitor’s device.

Comply or else…

The directive requires website managers to reveal that the cookies are there, explain what they are doing, and obtain visitors’ consent to store a cookie on their devices. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to £500,000.

The BBC doubts that the directive will be successfully applied.

Thousands of UK websites are expected to be in breach of a law that dictates what they can log about visitors.
UK firms have had 12 months to prepare for the change and the ICO has spent much of that time reminding businesses about their obligations.

The ICO has also updated its policy to allow organisations to use “implied consent” to comply. This means users do not have to make an explicit choice. Instead, their continued use of a site would be taken to mean they are happy for information to be gathered.

However, it was a “concern” for the ICO that so many sites were not yet compliant, said Dave Evans, group manager at the ICO who has led its work on cookies in the last 18 months. However, he added, it was not necessarily easy for companies to comply with the laws because of the amount of work it involved.

To be continued

The Guardian outlines the guidelines on ‘implied consent’ which were provided Thursday [24th May 2012].


Ben and Jerry’s brand of activism survives its Unilever takeover

May 24, 2012

The folksy Ben & Jerry ice cream outfit seemed an unlikely fit for the global Unilever Corporation. But their activism and social values of the smaller business seem to have survived the takeover

When a global Corporation acquire a smaller brand, there is likely to be a clash of cultures. Recently, Coke’s acquisition of Innocent, the pioneering manufacturer of healthy Smoothies drinks comes to mind. Another instance is that of Sony acquiring the tiny Hawkeye operation ahead of its own interests in Hawkeye’s technology being developed in sports such as tennis and cricket (with the greater market for football looming).

The Anglo Dutch giant Unilever likes to acquire brands with enough global potency to retain identity within the Unilever family. One BBC article recently asked whether its brand and corporate actions were becoming more like that of Ben & Gerry’s.

When Unilever bought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in 2000, there was talk of Unilever becoming more like Ben & Jerry’s and not the other way round. The quirky American ice-cream maker certainly does not appear to have abandoned the principles of its founders.

Ben & Jerry’s publicly supported the Occupy Wall Street movement and, according to co-founder Jerry Greenfield, nobody got fired.
“I am pleased that Ben & Jerry’s is able to continue its innovative mission,” he says. “We get a lot of support – sometimes I’m a little surprised at how supportive Unilever is.”

“I think Ben & Jerry’s was a tipping point for Unilever – they learned a lot from the culture and learned that it made business sense,” says Paula Widdowson, former head of social responsibility at Northern Foods who is now a consultant on the subject.

The Corporate plan

When Unilever unveiled its plans for putting sustainability at the heart of its global operations [in 2010], CEO Paul Polman publically committed to to reducing the environmental impact of its products by 50% while doubling sales, in the coming decade to 2020. He noted that the new model was “the only way to do business long term”.

The Ben & Jerry website

The Ben & Jerry website retains a powerful sense of the historic quirkiness of the company. Its activism and commitment to social values shines through. [I was reminded a little of the core identity of Mattel, when I looked at the site: Ed].

Ben & Jerry’s is founded on and dedicated to a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity. Our mission consists of 3 interrelated parts [social, product and economic].

Underlying the mission is a determination to seek new and creative ways of addressing all three parts, while holding a deep respect for individuals inside and outside the company and for the communities of which they are a part.

At the time of the takover the news was described in these terms

Unilever is to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company in a deal worth £203m ($326m).

Started in an old petrol station in Vermont in 1978, the [Ben & Jerry] company grew into a quirky business with a strong social dimension.
But lately differences have arisen between Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield about the direction the company should take, although the old schoolfriends deny they have fallen out.

“While we and others certainly would have pursued our mission as an independent enterprise, we hope that, as part of Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s will continue to expand its role in society,” they said in a statement.

Leadership lessons

Ben & Gerry cases have become a favoured topic for business school study. A range of case studies can be found (together with a range of not-always-model analyses).

This post has been written to introduce the potential dilemmas facing the Tom & Gerry brand within its wider responsibilities as part of a global operation.

Follow-up

Ben and Jerry has thrived as an autonomous part of the mighty Unilever global Corporation. Its employee-driven foundation backs community initiatives with millions of dollars.


The Shareholder Spring. Nice idea but will it turn into glorious summer?

May 23, 2012

Successful attempts by shareholders to restrict executive bonuses have been hailed as the outbreak of a Shareholder Spring. But, like the Arab Spring, summer may be a long way away

According to City A.M., the media group UBM has been the latest organization to experience a Shareholder Spring.

More than 47 per cent of investors failed to back the directors’ remuneration report, a result that would have been considered extraordinary before a recent spate of shareholder rebellions against pay levels at underperforming firms.

Protests focused on the substantial share option given to UBM’s finance director Robert Gray and a change in rules that meant performance-related bonuses would no longer take retail price inflation into account – possibly making it easier for executives to hit targets.

A spokesman for the firm said: “The Board has a continuing commitment to a process of active engagement with Shareholders and takes careful note of the lower percentage majority in favour of the Remuneration report. UBM’s executive remuneration policy is designed to reward and incentivise its senior management appropriately for an increasingly successful, growing and global company.”

Shareholder anger

Also in the UK, Aviva, Pendragon and Trinity Mirror have been corporations which have all faced the displeasure of shareholders.

Erika Morphy, writing for Forbes on leadership and its financial dilemmas, explores the Shareholder Spring through events at Yahoo

She suggests that shareholder pressures have been influenced through financial reforms in the United States such as the Dodd Franks legislation.

The so-called Shareholder Spring explains events at AOL, at Citigroup, which recently got its outstretched hand smacked by shareholders over a $15 million pay package for its CEO, Vikram Pandit, and at Credit Suisse and Barclays, which also received rejection by shareholders on compensation.
“Most famously, the Shareholder Spring has claimed Yahoo’s CEO Thompson’s head, if reports are true” she notes.

While recognising some victories for shareholders, Morphy concludes that “For the most part, companies are still firmly in control of their shareholders. Thompson is an exception, undone by a tin ear and flat-out stupidity in the way he marketed his credentials”

Leaders We Deserve has followed events at Yahoo since the controversial sacking of Carole Bartz a year ago [April 2011] which led to a temporary surge in its share price. Ms Bartz had taken over from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yan in 2009.

Government plans do not convince

In the UK, the so-called events of Shareholder Spring seems more potent than those in the United States. The greater activity and pressure from large shareholders may demonstrate lack of conviction that government intervention through Vince Cable will be enough to address investor concerns. These reforms were mentioned in the forthcoming government plans last week.

The darling buds of May

The Arab Spring of 2011 is turning out to be not so much a tipping point, as a complex series of unresolved tensions throughout the Middle East. The Shareholder Spring may in that respect share some of its complexities.


Acknowledgement

Now is the Winter of our Discontent Button by ObsessionDesign, zazzle,co.uk.


Facebook IPO helps define the American dream

May 19, 2012

The initial public offering for Facebook shares reveals much about the American dream

The valuation

When the dust settled after the first day of trading [18th May 2012], Facebook’s valuation, of just over $100 billion placed it roughly on a par with Amazon.

The dream of wealth creation

The wealth accruing to Mark Zuckerman and the other young co-founders has been widely noted. In America, much has also been made about what is seem as tax-dodging by Eduardo Saverin, who has taken up residency in Singapore and renounced his American citizenship, although his actions are seen differently in Singapore

Expectations

On the date of the public offering [18th May 2012], The Verge attempted to answer the question of why the stock appeared to be trading at a figure based so much on expectations.

Why would so many smart, rich people put such a premium on the stock? IPOs are an insider’s game. Buying the stock today at $38 means paying a premium to the founders, early investors, bankers, and even the bankers’ best clients, all of who have passed the stock down the food chain and taken their bite along the way.

Can Google and Facebook be compared easily?

The success of Google and its continued growth after its own share launch is now being used to justify the excitement. Google’s revenues are roughly three times those of Facebook ($9 billion to $3.5). But the prospects for the two companies seem difficult to assess (although the graph offered in The Verge article is worth studying).

The Initial Public Offering [IPO] was considered less than a success. The Los Angeles Times put it this way

“There was all this pressure and hype and attention with all eyes on Facebook — and the starlet tripped on the red carpet,” said Max Wolff, an analyst at GreenCrest Capital Management in New York. What went wrong? Analysts point to a variety of factors that might have given investors pause. Its valuation at about 100 times earnings likely struck some as too high. Its growth in new users is slowing. And Facebook has not yet found a way to cash in on mobile devices, where social media is gravitating.

This week’s decision by General Motors Co. to stop advertising on Facebook because it wasn’t getting results heightened concerns about how Facebook can profit from its 900 million users.

But perhaps the biggest blunders came in recent days as the company and its largest shareholders moved to maximize their profits at the expense of new investors.

Friendship and economics: The dilemma for Facebook

Other commentators have gone beyond the financials, suggesting a flaw in the proposed growth model of Facebook. The massive popular reach of the corporation comes with a belief that ultimately it was a social phenomenon primarily about achieving social goals. In particular it has redefined personal identity and the concept of friendship. There was always something apart from economics in that set of beliefs.

The dilemma for Facebook becomes more visible now that the corporation is legally obligated to conform to economic principles and governance. Considerations of ethics, stock price and social vision increasingly will interplay. Even its efforts to promote the American Dream may be scrutinized more coolly and globally.


City fan has recurring nightmare that his team lost the Premiership

May 16, 2012

City fan Eric still has a nightmare that his team lost the race to the Premiership title

Eric was interviewed in Leaders We Deserve some years ago. It was at a time when supporting City was a burden to be carried. Eric was recovering from an era of successive relegations from the Premiership and then the championship. The joy of recovery was tinged with bad memories.

Then it all changed

In the early hours of Monday morning, [14th May 2012] having joined in the first night of celebrations over City’s greatest triumph, he went to bed a contented man.

His worse nightmare

But even at the moment of City’s greatest success, his worse nightmare began. Looking gaunt, he describes his nightly torments:

“I’m back watching the QPR game. We are well in control but not winning. Then Barton gets sent off. They are down to ten men. Even we can’t lose it now. The dream’s so life-like. I’m Pozning with glee.[The Poznan: Curious City celebration, involving synchronized jumping up and down].

Then they break away and score. We are going to lose. In my dream the whole stadium is full of jeering Reds. [gleeful United fans].

Then they score again. We go behind. The Reds are cheering.

We pour back at them. Wave after wave it was. But whatever we do, the goalie pulls off miracle save after save. Now it’s extra time. Only one minute! [here as elsewhere, Eric’s dream is a distortion of reality]. The Etiad [stadium] changes colour from blue to red. The whole sky goes red. The cheering and jeering is dreadful.

I wake up covered in sweat. I can’t believe it’s a dream.

Yesterday I went over to the celebrations at Albert Square. Fantastic. But after when I got home and got to bed, it was that same nightmare. Nothing changed. United win out again.”

True fans have to suffer

A truly sad tale. We send Eric our congratulations and condolences. True fans have to suffer. But not like this.


The Leveson enquiry: a storm in a media teacup?

May 15, 2012

In the UK, there could be a gigantic political scandal unfolding involving the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rupert Murdoch, and a considerable number of their colleagues and close personal friends

On the other hand…

On the other hand, much of what is being reported may amount to a gigantic storm in a media teacup, amounting to little more than evidence of powerful people behaving with illusions of omniscience.

The tantalising question is whether we are witnessing an important series of events in political history in the UK in the early decades of the 21st century. Or not.

Timeline

Leaders we deserve reported on the breaking news stories emerging from the Leveson enquiry [in an earlier post April 23rd – May 10th, 2012].

May 28th Tony Blair’s testimony

Tony Blair’s involvement with the media was explored chronologically. He gave his expected well-prepared presentation. The self- image which ran through his book [reviewed among other places in Leaders we deserve] hardly appeaared to have changed.

His emphasis on power and power-relationships came through as he portrayed his own belefs that as prime Minister he sought to “manage not take on” the media. He drew parallels with [Labour] Union power. Of interest, he considered the owener of media to be less important than their appropriate managemment.

A brief moment of dramaas a protester burst into the room (ca 11.30 am) hurling “War criminal” accusation at T.B., before being hustled away

May 24th

Another week of compelling winesses. Yesterday Jeremy Paxman whose evidence suggested malpractice from the Mirror group. Today, Adam Smith whose evidence adds to the pressure on Culture and Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt as his special advisor in the ‘quasi-judicial role played by Hunt in the BSkyB case.

May 18th

Six children killed in a house fire. Is the case one for the Leveson enquiry? The deaths of six children in Derbyshire may be as relevant to the Leveson enquiry as that of the hacking of the voice mail of murdered teenager Millie Dowler.

The father of the children, Mick Philpott, acquired notoriety in a media campaign five years ago as “a benefits scrounger” who was reported as asking for a larger house to accommodate his extended family and more of his seventeen children.

May 15th 2012

Breaking news: Rebekah Brooks is charged for offenses relating to phone-hacking. The issue is said to be one ‘hanging over the government’ until the next election.

Lord Levinson announces intention to ‘say something significant on recent events’ at 2pm local time.

Levinson statement [2pm May 15th 2012]

Lord L had prepared an extended statement. He indicated yesterday [and earlier] that his remit was to explore evidence of Government/Press relations. In his statement, he reviewed various events which indicated the focus of his concern. These reprised his need to operate in a strictly neutral fashion, when there were political issues being considered by Parliament.

In this respect, he quoted extensively from Hansard [the official political record] on questions relating to the enquiry, and specifically the issue of making information requested from it available to Parliament, including a ruling from speaker John Berkow.

His statement also focused on the ‘leaking’ of information to News International. The statement implied that he would have to consider excluding from the enquiry any areas which he considered risked its independence and fairness.

It appears that there are ‘hard to resolve’ issues [dilemmas] here. The politicians are using the information leaked as part of a campaign attacking Jeremy Hunt through his disgraced special advisor Adam Smith. Lord Leveson is concerned about the fairness of the enquiry being placed at risk by politicised debate in Parliament.

May 15th 2012

Levison’s statement of May 15th in seen by The Telegraph as ‘defending the enquiry’

New York Times outlines prosecution of Rebekah Brooks as the most recent and easiest of charges of concealing evidence. More charges may follow which will embroil prominent politicians.

May 14th 2012

The Guardian newspaper was described last week by former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks, as a leading member of the ‘anti-Sky coalition’. The newspaper continues its reporting with an article drawing attention to the Chancellor’s involvement with Sky International executives at the time of the Government’s investigations of the proposed takeover of BSkyB by News International.

To be continued

This post will be updated regularly until further notice.