Over recent days the media has been drip-feeding woeful tales regarding Paul Flowers the former chairman of the Co-op Bank. The latest being his arrest in Merseyside in connection with a “drugs supply investigation”. According to the media, it appears that he has also been suspended from both the Methodist Church, where he was a minister in Bradford, and the Labour Party.
I am sure those who elected or promoted him into high office at the Co-op, the Methodist Church and the Labour party did so in all good faith. Believing in him and being confident that he could appropriately fulfil his roles and responsibilities; and that he had the capability to ‘live’ the brands of all three organisations.
But how important is it to the customers and employees of organisations when those in prominent positions suddenly appear to be less than worthy than was first thought? How does this make us feel as consumers when top people from our favourite brands fall from grace? Members of the public in the Co-operative movement’s birthplace of Rochdale were asked their views. One woman said, “I’ve not had any problem the Co-op Bank “. Whilst another customer responded, “If you can’t trust someone running a big bank like that, who can you trust?”
I think we all feel a sense of disappointment when these cases are reported, even if we are not connected to the organisations in any way. We feel let down by those people who are paid lots of money to be outstanding leaders and who behave shamefully. I am not a customer of the Co-op or the Methodist Church but I do feel a sense of disillusionment. Not just about Paul Flowers, but all those others in high office or public profile who are found to have acted disgracefully.
Part of the leadership role, particularly for those new to leadership, must be to ensure that they take full responsibility not just for the things they change or implement within an organisation, but for all aspects of their behaviour, both in and out of work. It is their personal duty to ensure that they do nothing to detriment the brands which have been built over many years.
Every organisation, large or small, has a duty to itself to bring these responsibilities to the forefront of its leader’s minds. This will take more than a short conversation in the Board Room, or an email to the senior management team. This vital aspect of leadership must be instilled into every tier of management.
With this concern now so prominent, RightTrack is reviewing the content of its leadership programmes to reflect this very thing.
On closing, I want to refer to a statement from MoneySupermarket.com’s Head of Banking, Kevin Mountford who said that the Co-op Bank has been damaged “short term, but over time it’s got a chance of rectifying that.” Let us hope this is so, for the Co-op is one of our oldest and most treasured brands and it is not fair that it has been trashed in this way. No doubt the Co-op board will now be doing much more due diligence not only in its recruitment and selection, but also the leadership training and development of its members.