Leadership, Risk and the Zone of Reciprocal Relationship
One of the stories of the week is the big surprise about corruption in FIFA, just joking, there is no surprise. After years of speculation the evidence is now clear that endemic corruption exists in FIFA at all levels. The story of Sepp Blater (or more close to home) or Alan Bond, illustrates the importance of understanding leadership within the framework of ethics, mutuality and reciprocation. We called this the ‘Zone of Reciprocal Relationship’ in our latest book Following-Leading in Risk, A Humanizing Dynamic.
The Zone of Reciprocal Relationship (graphically represented below), represents those things that join following to leading. This is why the book title joins following to leading and why the title uses participles not nouns (eg. Leadership, Followership) to describe the mutuality (humanizing) dynamic. The power of the leading and the following is not at the icon at each end of the diagram but it is in the power of the hyphen, what joins following and leading together. If these matters (between the following and leading) are not considered in leadership, it is likely there will be no followers.
The closest issue to the act of leading (and illustrated in the graphic) is the importance of ethics. Nothing is more likely to cause followers to leave in droves than the demonstration of self interest and corruption. It is unfortunate that for all the things that Alan Bond did, he will be most remembered for corruption and his time in prison. Similarly, all the many good things achieved by Rolf Harris will are now rejected in the light of his demise and unethical conduct. There is no unethical leadership, people do not follow corrupt leaders and self-interested, selfish management. How remarkable that there are so few books published on ethics in leadership!
As the story of Blatter and FIFA emerge, as prosecutions, corruptions and self interest grows so the demise of people once valued as leaders will sink into nothingness. A legacy without ethics, is no legacy.
Nothing is more devastating to following than the knowledge of kick backs, favours, back room deals and self interested politics. People want to achieve things based on merit, not on some secret self-interested deal. Double-speak (say one thing and do another) completely breaks down any respect for those in authority. Without some health in the Zone of Reciprocal Relationship, there is not likely to be much genuine following and leading.
In the MiProfile (https://vimeo.com/24764673) Culture Diagnostic (with an extensive database across many industries) the current perception of ‘double-speak’ in risk and safety in Australian industry has an average result of 65%. In other words, a majority of workers believe (rightly or wrongly) that their organisations tend to say one thing and then do another when it comes to risk and safety. Double speak fuels a destructive counter-culture of cynicism, pessimism and skepticism. For example, running a campaign on ‘speak-up’ to near misses and reporting and then crucify confessors for reporting. The regulator seems to have perfected this art of ‘speak up as a hero’ (http://www.worksafe.act.gov.au/page/view/3455) and then run a ‘blitz’ to scare everyone with the ‘fear of god’ that worksafe will flog you (https://safetyrisk.net/theres-nothing-better-than-a-blitz/ ). It seems the hero mythology (http://hazardman.act.gov.au/) is more loved by the regulator than the reality.
When it comes to ‘double-speak’ in risk and safety, some organisations love preaching a discourse of zero and then accept the drive to send things underground, because LTIs become the measure of all things. Or, zero harm organisations preach about zero harm but believe in ‘selective harm’ and accept the tragedy of harm (FIFO and DIDO) as not counted as injury. Double-speak should be one of the first things measured in any culture survey, yet in most surveys on the market in safety this is not even considered important.
Activity in The Zone of Reciprocal Relationship conditions the state of following and leading. How matters in the Zone are exorcised shapes the leading and following. When the quality of authority is known to be significantly corrupt, followers desert the ship in droves. This is not just true in sport and entertainment but also in risk and safety.