The debacle and disgrace of the News of the World newspaper and, just as importantly News International and Rupert Murdoch, continues to rumble on despite Murdoch’s apparent apology. I say “apparent” because I do not think that I am alone in getting the impression that he does not actually mean it. The words came out but the sentiment behind them appeared conspicuous by its absence.
You could, of course, excuse the mogul if his expression of the apology failed to hit the mark because of his usual habit of avoiding interview (although it would seem that this discretion was invariably not offered to his victims!) compounded by the excessive publicity and pressure that is being exerted by his fellow media jackals. No “there but by the grace of God go I” from them – it is in for the kill and let’s make it as painful and public as possible! I do not allow him such excuse. With great power comes great responsibility Rupert.
There are 2 points that I would like to elaborate upon with respect to this circus but firstly I feel that it is worth noting that WE (well never me!) bought his rag. We were happy to read about the dirt dished and the injunctions “supered” and I do not accept that we all assumed that these exclusives and revelations were all uncovered by ethical and acceptable practices. The public gets what the public wants and we clearly voted “Yes” to the sleaze and bile that the NotW regularly presented. Mea culpa.
However, back to the mogul.
Why don’t we believe him?
Well, basically because his reputation dictates otherwise. His reputation (personally and professionally) does not lend itself to remorse, compassion and respect so it is somewhat churlish to expect to both to receive this in return and to expect the public to believe that there has been a massive disconnect between him and his staff and that this truly apologetic individual in now acting with authenticity and integrity. He may we have experienced an epiphany but . . . .well, what do you think?
When asked ‘are you not responsible as head of News Corp?’ – Rupert Murdoch said emphatically NO.
When asked ‘who is responsible?’ – this is what Rupert Murdoch said …. “The people I trusted to run it and maybe the people they trusted.”
Mmmm. Trust? Well, every business leader influences the culture, and inevitably the operational guidelines, process and policies, of his organisation. If he does not, why is he there? If he is guilty of trusting the wrong people then that raises other serious deficiencies but I am of the opinion that the “trust” defence is simply not tenable. He may as well have blamed the company toilet cleaner because there was not enough soap to wash his hands (well he is attempting to wash them now!) which distracted him from the main business of the day! He sets the culture. He sets the standard. He sets the policies and protocols. He should recruit, instruct, train, develop, measure and review ALL policy and operations as a matter of course – every other leader has to so why should he not? You establish a culture of integrity and trust and you get it back. Create a culture of “whatever it takes, whoever gets in the way” and that is what you get.
I am not in any way excusing the unprofessional, unethical, disgraceful, self-promoting, dis-respectful, intrusive behaviour of the minions that deployed these tactics at all but he recruited, trained, motivated, measured and paid them – he IS responsible for their conduct (if not every single action).
There may be one final hiding place for Murdoch’s soul. It may lie in the argument that he was acting in accordance with the greater culture of our times with his puerile apology? By this I mean the ambulance-chasing, someone-to-blame, get me lawyer mentality that seems to be pervading our own society. Well, in this case someone IS to blame. There IS a price to be paid. You are the person Mr Murdoch and you are only just beginning to pay the price.
Corporate responsibility, compliance, health and safety etc are all reflections of our growing tendency to avoid personal responsibility. Tough! Look in the mirror; the person looking back will guide your way and you will not get to authentic integrity and leadership by kidding yourself. You cannot kid a kidder (or the man in the mirror – no pun intended!)