Transparency has changed the nature of leadership
Radical transparency was also a major theme of all of the interviews I conducted for my book The Language of Leaders. It was why many leaders felt that they were operating much closer to the precipice.
Reputation has always been important but today, they say, you can lose your reputation in seconds. Lord Mervyn Davies (Baron Davies of Abersoch), former Chairman of Standard Chartered plc, Chairman of Chime Communications plc and a former government minister, argues that communication has assumed crucial importance in a world where:
‘news travels so fast; where bad and good news can move across continents in milliseconds. This has changed the nature of politics and changed the nature of business.
It means that whatever you’re doing wherever you are, there is a chance that because of CCTV, YouTube, cameras on mobile phones, somebody is watching you. We live in a world where a small action can cause a big result.’
Kevin Beeston, who is Chairman of Taylor Wimpey, one of the largest British house building companies, and a former Chairman of global support services group Serco, says:
‘These days, everybody’s got a camera with them. Everybody’s got a mobile phone with a voice recording system or a video camera, so you cannot drop your guard. Make one mistake and you will not get away with it.
But the opposite is also true – if you manage this environment well you have more ways of getting your message over and building your brand. And a strong brand is probably one of the most significant competitive advantages a company can have. So if you manage it effectively, it could be a big driver of shareholder value.’
Graham Mackay, the immediate past Chief Executive of SAB Miller, one of the world’s largest brewers, says that the modern world places much greater demands on leaders:
‘Businesses are much more like open democracies. People expect to be communicated to much more and see themselves as part of a democracy where they consent to being led. As well as the need to communicate more with employees, there is increased regulatory scrutiny, the rise of global NGOs and 24/7 media. You have to represent yourself and explain your company and your actions all the time.’