Disgraced Lehman CEO Dick Fuld says in this WSJ piece:
“‘I spent too much time out of the office with clients and trusted other people to manage the risk,' he told employees of a new firm staffed by former Lehman workers, says an attendee. ‘I'm sorry.'”
That kind of CEO excuse making and blaming is far too common in Western management. Many CEOs blame outside factors when their company is struggling or failing. I think it's particular odious to blame “the staff” when you are the boss.
What responsibility did Fuld have other than to make sure the right people and the right processes were in place? Granted, a leader might be excused when there's one “rogue employee” but what about when the whole system has rotted and collapsed?
Quality starts at the top, I'm reminded of Dr. Deming saying. But nobody listened.
The same thing happens far too often in healthcare. When a medical mistake garners public attention, we often see the CEO or CMO or COO laying blame at an individual. Again, what responsibility does the top leader have for the system? In the Quaid case, the Cedars-Sinai CMO bemoaned the fact that people didn't follow procedures. Well whose responsibility is that?
I forget who I heard ask this question at a meeting or conference lately:
Does a hospital CEO take personal responsibility for EVERYTHING that happens in their hospital? If systems are broken and a preventable error occurs and harms somebody, should the CEO take responsibility? In what circumstances? What do you think? What is your experience?
By comparison, in that recent discussion, an American plant manager had said “I was personally responsible for every damn thing that happened in that plant.” That sets a high bar. Yet, it's the right message, I think.
If you look at the Japanese business culture and CEO leadership behaviors, they DO take responsibility. There's far less blaming and deflection of responsibility. You get the big paycheck, you are responsible. It's a tough, high-pressure job, I'm sure — but that's what you sign up for, that sort of responsibility, right?
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