Why didn't he know?
Q: The Pope Benedict XVI's efforts to deal with the Church's sex scandal raises this question: Can a leader hold managers to account on an issue where his own past performance is in question?
A leader can hold managers to account, but first the leader must address 'the question,' if their past behavior is 'in question.' If there is a suspicion that the leader is lying or covering up past mistakes, their moral authority is weakened. If the Pope didn't know, the obvious question is, should he have known? Wasn't it his responsibility to know?
A good leader accepts responsibility for what takes place in his/her organization. The leader establishes priorities, selects who gets key positions and authority, makes clear to subordinates what's important, and what s/he pays attention to. All leaders make mistakes, as do all organizations. If the leader accepts responsibility for and admits those mistakes, and points to lessons learned and steps taken since the event(s) in question, that goes a long way toward developing credibility with subordinate managers when holding them accountable.
People will forgive a lot, but not hypocrisy, nor shirking of responsibility. The Pope does not want to appear to be following the cynic's maxim "Deny everything. Admit nothing. Make counter-accusations." If he does, he will lose moral authority with a discriminating public. The Pope, and everyone who was in a position of leadership in the Catholic Church, owns some responsibility and culpability for the sins of those in their charge. The public will decide how much culpability it chooses to give him, but if he takes none, that sends a message. "Not my fault. I didn't know" doesn't work for me. Why didn't he know?
If the Pope expects his subordinate managers to take and accept responsibility for what happens in their organizations, then he has to do the same. That is true of any leader.
March 31, 2010; 7:43 AM ET
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Posted by: joseph19 | April 7, 2010 5:07 PM
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