Leading a scandal

Your manager orders you to do a task in a manner which goes against the company policies and code of conduct. But, this particular easy task, if done, will fetch millions of profits to the company and will make you the preferred candidate for the current promotion cycle. Your manager is forcing you to do this. He sees a bigger picture in the form of profits and promotion. What will you do? Will you obey your manager?

I was dumbstruck when a gentleman asked me this personality defining question during my maiden interview of my career when I was 20 years old. I can’t exactly recall what I blabbered back then, but I confess that I messed it up very badly.

Recently, suspended Australian cricket player Cameron Bancroft revealed in an interview that he acted upon the suggestions of vice-captain David Warner to tamper with the ball. Team captain Steve Smith took complete responsibility for the plan and confessed that even though he had no part in plotting to alter the condition of the ball, he had heard the plan being hatched in the team’s dressing room and was aware of the real happenings on the field.

Bancroft, who was caught on television cameras hiding a piece of sandpaper in his trousers during the game, said he had been a willing accomplice because he was worried that he might let the team down by not going along with the scheme.

“Dave (Warner) suggested to me to carry the action out on the ball given the situation we were in in the game and I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued, really as simple as that. The decision was based around my values, what I valued at the time and I valued fitting in … you hope that fitting in earns you respect and with that, I guess, there came a pretty big cost for the mistake.”

Who is accountable for the shame they brought to their nation? Steve Smith, the captain who knew everything and kept quiet, or David Warner, the vice-captain who instigated the plan, or Cameron Bancroft, who obeyed his seniors with complete awareness of the consequences. What kind of leadership lessons can be learnt from this?

I wonder how many teams in government organizations and corporate companies involve in these kind of activities both at executive and grass root levels? What kind of culture is being cultivated in the teams with these kind of leaders and mindset?

Ethics, Values, Code of Conduct, Rules and Regulations, Dos and Don’ts. Humans have created these terms and the underlying explanations related to them in order to control themselves from doing senseless things. But, as life will go on to find its way, humans also went on to find a way to mess up things, that they are capable of doing, with a huge cost.

Imagine such a kind of leader in a team who guides the junior most member to do a specific job that defies the organization values. Should the team member oblige to do it? Or can he muster enough courage to say NO? If he says NO and receives the wrath of his boss, are company grievance policies and related teams ready to help that poor kid to overcome the situation? Any protection for whistleblowers? Can anyone guarantee a fair and transparent trail? What about the relation with the client? What about the reputation of the company? What if the share value goes down? How will be the rapport in future with new clients? A lot of drama unfolds if something happens and no one is ready to buy it.

These kind of crisis are bound to happen in today’s highly competitive world. Be it in sports, politics, corporate companies or even families. If the kid says YES and obeys his seniors, what kind of a character he develops eventually in future. Won’t he repeat the actions of his seniors? Can he be a good leader?

Atoning after facing the consequences is sad and sometimes OK, but every mess can be avoided if we had adhered to whatever is rightly expected from us, at least by a means of obligation.

Being right and doing right should not be a responsibility, it should be cultivated as a habit.

Do not share your password” is highly respected and diligently followed rule in IT companies of India. Only IT employees can accomplish that impossible feat. 🙂 I find it very inspiring.


Bancroft reveals

Image attributed to Flickr.

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