Friday, October 30, 2009

Socially Responsible Leadership

As I write this there are 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers stranded off the coast of Indonesia on an Australian Customs vessel. Both the Government and the Opposition in Australia are seeking political mileage by "being tough" on those who seek to jump the immigration and refugee queue. Once again blame is foisted upon the refugees rather than on the events and leadership which made them flee their homeland.

The media this week report that interest rates in Australia are almost certain to rise when the Reserve Bank meets next week. The only question relates to the extent of the rise and little is said about how financial institutions will use this to enhance profits. In the same media we learn that housing prices are again rising rapidly and making the dream of owning your own home even more difficult for many people. No-one is prepared to take responsibility for increasing the pressure on, primarily, low income earners and first home buyers.

Last week we learned that the global financial crisis had created a loss of some $160 million to the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney - apparently the church invested using margin loans - and as a result they will need to cut back on help it gives to people. The Archbishop commented that perhaps God was trying to tell the church something but he fell short of accepting blame for the loss.

Three social issues.

Common to all of them is that leaders are caught up in events over which they now have little or no control. Also common to all of them is an apparent reluctance (if not refusal) of leaders to accept any responsibility or liability even though they could have had significant influence at very early stages.

There are three aspects to leadership - the intent, the strategy, and the execution.

Ideally the intent of leadership ought to be to create an environment in which every person can be successful - ie can lead a productive life free of such issues as starvation, violence, and discrimination. The specifics of strategy and execution - ie 'how' this is done together with the attitudes and behaviours of the leaders - will always be both culturally and organisationally specific. But the intent should remain constant because such an intent makes it possible to be economically responsible simultaneously with being socially responsible - its not an 'either/or'.

It seems to me that unfortunately many of those in politics, business, and religious groups seem to have lost sight of this.

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