Expert Opinion

Are we still the good guys?

The new Centre for Governance, Leadership and Global Responsibility is set to launch at Leeds Metropolitan University this week on Thursday 1 May. Today's post sees Centre Director, Professor Simon Robinson, look ahead to the launch and the plans for the Centre's future.

The question, 'Are we still the good guys?', from son to father in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (also a movie) remains powerful - just as much for the boards of major organizations as for individuals.

In its report, ‘An accident waiting to happen’: The failure of HBOS the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards detail how the HBOS board thought that they were the good guys even after the banking crisis occurred. In fact, despite good intentions, too many of the board were experts in retailing and not in banking. The result was a lack of awareness of the financial and social environment, and thus ignorance of the effects of their decisions and actions on both of these.

The new Centre for Governance, Leadership and Global Responsibility aims to explore the meaning and practice of good governance and leadership across different sectors. It will:

  • develop theory and philosophy , but put theory in its rightful place, as servant of practice and value
  • explore and share practical tools for reflective governance, but put technique in its rightful place, as servant of value and meaning
  • explore ways of critically integrating theory, value and practice in teaching and learning, so that students are ready to practise critical judgement and take responsibility, individually and in teams, for what they think and do.

The explorations will be based in critical and creative dialogue across all sectors. Some would say that critical dialogue is the basis of all good governance. There is no doubt that impartial critical thinking and challenge is precisely what universities should offer to practitioners. And this begins with simple but powerful questions, like ‘what do you mean?’, ‘How do your values inform your decision making?’, ‘how will that decision affect the industry or the environment ?’, and even, ‘are we still the good guys?’

These are questions to ask of boards and leaders at all levels of the organisation, the practice of which was absent from Mid Staffs, the Roman Catholic Church, the finance industry, and many more. All of these forgot to link leadership and management to purpose and value, and so presided over failed enterprises.

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