December 17, 2006
'Weak' Leadership Takes Real GutsIn this morning's papers we see two examples of leaders making decisions that seem to be driven largely by pride and the desire to not lose face, rather than the desire to actually solve a problem.
First of all, we read about George W Bush ignoring the advice of some of Washington's brightest and best, and rushing to put together a plan to do exactly what 99.99% of sane, rational people already know will only make matters worse. The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group have been casually swept aside - I mean, it's not like these people are smarter than Mr Bush, now, is it - and the president is reportedly busy working on plans for one final push into Baghdad and other Sunni strongholds. Yeah, because the military option has been working so well up to now... Apparantly, Dubya's primary concern is that he be seen as a "strong war leader", even in the face of miserable and humiliating defeat. While more considered voices call for co-operation and a multilateral solution in the Middle East, the Whitehouse is writing the script for Team America II.
On the next page we hear about how Number 10 blocked attempts by the Home Office to legalise prostitution and create safe red light districts, a move that may have meant that 5 women who are dead today may not have been in the vulnerable position that left them so open to attack. According to a source within the Home Office, Tony Blair did not want to be seen to be backing such an unpopular policy, even though all the evidence and all the expert opinion suggests that such a policy could save lives and significantly reduce the crime and anti-social behaviour that any illegal activity tends to attract. As with Bush's final push, Blair would much rather protect his image than save lives. The death's of thousands in Iraq and those wretched 5 prostitutes in Suffolk is a price worth paying, just as long as our leaders can avoid potentially embarassing headlines that acuse them of being "weak" leaders.
And we'd do well to remember that this weakness displayed by Bush and Blair is endemic, not just in politics, but in management, too. All too often we waste our time and money persuing follies that the people in charge refuse to back down over. It's universally decried as a disaster, but the NHS Patient Records system is the classic example. The people running the show simply refuse to back down. Faced with a choice of wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers money, and risking the NHS itself in the process, or cutting their losses before it's too late, the people in charge of this white elephant of monumental proportions maintain that it is on track. Try as we might, we cannot persuade them to admit that the Emporer has no clothes.
Canning projects - or drastically changing direction to save projects - is a tough decision. But don't we pay senior managers to make tough decisions? Isn't that why they earn the big bucks? It seems all too often that they wimp out and wait for the shit to hit the fan. By then, of course, they've cashed in their stock options and are long gone, leaving the people who told them it couldn't be done to clear up the mess.
My opinion: it takes real strength of character to do the right thing, even if it makes you look weak.
Posted 15 years, 3 months ago on December 17, 2006