And so Bob Diamond sails off into the sunset… Bob it feels like we hardly knew ye…
Of course he had to go. Even if, as he claimed, he had no knowledge of the dodgy practices around the way LIBOR rates were set at Barclays… these abuses took place on his watch and he was ultimately accountable. Indeed, in our view leaders are important barometers for an organisational culture. They are visible role-models. Their behaviour sets the context for the behaviour and actions of everyone else in the organisation. He had to take the ultimate sanction so that others would see the consequences of their actions.
This included a trip to Parliament… Hearing “Bob” speak so informally to the Select committee really jarred… it was like he was in trouble with the headmaster, and that somehow he thought overfamiliarity might spare him a bigger telling off. If that was a result of some advice from a comms practitioner it was certainly ill-advised.
Perhaps more endearing was his repeated expression of love for Barclays and the people at Barclays. His attempts to distance the wrongdoing of a small group of people from the remaining 140,000 employees are perhaps laudable. Indeed this memo he sent to colleagues the day before his resignation hit some of the right notes around how Barclays may begin to restore its reputation. It’s just that they will be doing it without Bob.
Reflecting on this debacle I am perhaps most struck by the way decisions were made. In his book “ethicability”, Professor Roger Steare talks about the importance of having an ethical framework in your decision-making process. Was there any ethical dimension present for the teams and individuals involved in setting LIBOR rates? If not, why not?
And doesn’t that take us to bigger questions about leadership and culture?
At H+K, we often talk about culture being a broad choice around where you sit on the continuum between “control” and “ownership”. There is, of course, the view that Barclays should have more controls in place. More rules. More oversight. More enforcement.
That is a simpler road and has its merits. But will it genuinely change behaviour sustainably and over the long term? Perhaps.
My sense is that rules can only take you so far. There will always be unforseeen circumstances. Ethical dilemmas.
Shouldn’t we equip our employees with the tools to be able to make the right choices. To take individual ownership for making the right decisions. Shouldn’t there always be an ethical dimension to our decision-making process?