Saturday, September 3, 2016

Leadership. I'm sorry, but no, its meaning hasn't changed

This morning, I read Gabriel Sherman's "exposé" of Roger Ailes which was published yesterday in the online edition of New York Magazine (and will appear in the September 5th print edition).  Roger Ailes is the disgraced  founder and former Chairman and CEO of Fox News who is now a campaign advisor for Donald Trump.

In the article, this caught my attention:  Responding to the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British Guardian newspaper, Murdoch (Roger Ailes former boss) said, "I do not accept ultimate responsibility. I hold responsible the people that I trusted to run it and the people they trusted."  In other words, the responsibility is delegated downward, always downward.  

Wow ... so that's what leadership is today?

Anyone who has ever been connected with the military (U.S. or Canadian) knows how much military tradition values the quality of leadership. It's institutionalized in the military and (unlike the private sector of our economy) in the military there is no distinction between "management" and "leadership." if you are an officer in any of our armed forces, you are considered a leader and you are expected to exhibit, consistently and constantly, the traits of leadership, in your private life as well as your professional. That's tradition, it is doctrine, and it is mandated by the regulations and guidelines set down as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It isn't optional.

I spent the first 15 years of my professional life working (both as a civilian employee and contractor) for the U.S. Army. During that time, I was exposed to the military's ideas about leadership. We were taught that authority can be delegated, but never responsibility. Personal responsibility is core to military leadership. Yet, today it seems, it has become acceptable for people in leadership positions to refuse responsibility for the mistakes on "their watch" and, yes, that means responsibility for those beneath them in the "chain of command."

On a personal level, let me state this: No one else is responsible for my actions. I am. Me. Myself. Alone. No one can make me do evil things. And I will not surrender my own will to the mass hysteria of the herd.

I may not be a corporate CEO, but I know what leadership is.