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Absence of leadership

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

There are many examples of poor leadership in politics and business right now. Politics especially seems to be lacking as our political leaders are often ineffective at motivating and influencing others:

  • Lack of compelling visions

  • They surround themselves with yes men and women

  • There is no reason for us to want to aspire to be them or follow them

  • Trust is certainly found to be lacking

And then an organisation such as Facebook proves that politics doesn't have a monopoly on poor leadership or in this particular case an absence of leadership. This article from Vanity Fair doesn't pull any punches calling out their CEO and COO:

"Facebook’s leadership culture, as should be clear by now, has been anything but open, transparent, or authentic.

Sandberg's apology in relation to hiring a PR firm that leveraged anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to deflect attention from Facebook’s own missteps smacks of willful blindness.

“I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have...”

As Margaret Heffernan says in her wonderful book (Willful Blindness), "the problem is not that nobody knows what is happening; the real failures are the refusal to pay attention. This is willful blindness." Sound familiar?

The article goes on to say:

A true leader would not have:
- overseen the company’s rampant abuse and sale of user data, after promising the Federal Trade Commission that it would be more responsible about doing so.
- spent five whole days staying silent after The New York Times reported on Cambridge Analytica’s access and exploitation of Facebook user data in March 2018, only to later claim that she and Zuckerberg had previously asked the source of that leak to destroy said data but had failed to confirm that they had done so.

I have been scratching my head and wondering ever since the Cambridge Analytica incident where the CEO and COO at Facebook are getting their advice and guidance. Surely their advisors, mentors, board members or coaches are challenging them - holding them accountable for what they do or not do.

Surely their advisors, mentors, board members or coaches are holding up a mirror to provide alternative insights, and points of view that challenge their thinking and decisions.

This seems like a classic case of where a challenging coach, one outside of an organisation's line management could add tremendous value. The reality is that people at the top rarely get honest feedback from those around them. Or get held to account in the same way that they hold others to account. This is where an external, independent coach who is a strategic partner could make a huge (positive) difference.


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