What is so hard about doing the right thing? Why is it so difficult for some leaders to make decisions when the answer seems so obvious to the rest of us? Why does it take advertisers to pull their support and public outrage to help get to what should have been the initial response?
We think people might say, it has do with profits – decisions are all made for the best interest of the company. Another “reason” may be concern about the potential of lawsuits – “If I admit making a mistake…we’ll get sued.” Or maybe it’s about saving face or not losing the power position, or maintaining an outstanding brand or reputation.
Let’s see how those have played out in the news recently. Here are two examples.
First, let’s consider FOX News’ handling of then CEO Roger Ailes sexual harassment charges and the prevailing culture within that organization. After the ouster of Ailes, FOX promised to “maintain a culture of trust and respect”. However, there must not have been any teeth in that culture renewal. Fast forward to Bill O’Reilly, with the reigning top-rated cable news program – certainly a big money maker for FOX but at what cost? Now O’Reilly is out – along with 60 or so advertisers, not to mention the lawsuits and the women damaged by those poor decisions. Do you think FOX’s reputation has taken a hit?
Secondly, how about United Airlines? What if the CEO Oscar Munoz started with – “Wow, I’m completely shocked at the treatment of one of our customers! This is NOT what I expect for my passengers. I will take personal responsibility for this and do everything I can to make things right.” There may still have been a lawsuit, and United would still be the butt of late night TV jokes, but do you think it would be as bad as what happened? We doubt it!
Why have leaders lost their resolve and become weak? Are they afraid of taking ownership and being accountable? Man up leaders, or maybe we should say woman up! Get out there and try to do the right thing the first time around. Don’t wait until it is demanded by others. It will be better for your bottom line and your reputation!
Julie Miller and Brian Bedford, founders of Miller Bedford Executive Solutions, help businesses improve strategy, culture and leadership, while addressing issues that limit success.