Authentic Leadership and Eddie Maguire’s behaviour

I was shocked by Eddie Maguire’s recent comments directed towards Caroline Wilson. If you have not yet heard what happened, here is a brief audio segment of what was said and there is a transcript in the Business Insider blog This is just three years after he made disparaging remarks towards Adam Goodes when he suggested that the Aboriginal AFL star could promote the musical King Kong.

Eddie has a leadership role with the Collingwood Football Club as their President, was the CEO of the Nine Network, features prominently on television and radio, sits on a number of boards and in 2005 received a Member of the Order of Australia. These are comments coming from someone who holds and has been appointed as a leader and it raises a number of issues for me regarding leadership and organisational culture.

From what I can see, the backlash from society in general has been damning and immediate and has sent a powerful message – responses from the media, politicians, leaders and the general public have been unambiguous – this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and goes against the grain of our civilised Australian society. However, the message from organisations who have a commercial self interest in their relationship with Eddie, for me, have been less clear because what they say and the actions they take are not the same.

The Collingwood Football Club Board issued a statement saying that there was no place for the support of violent behaviour or language – even in humour, and in the same breath said that it “expressed its complete and ongoing support for Eddie’s position as president”. How does that reconcile?

If there is NO place, then there is NO place, including the president of the club! This ambiguity leaves me trying to work out what the board really means, and one interpretation is that they are not serious about addressing this behaviour in their club and by default, condone it. All the apologies, statements in the press, video statements and anything else they have done to diffuse this PR disaster must be viewed with a degree of cynicism if they do not implement appropriate consequence in this matter.

Holden is refusing to rule out withdrawing their support as a major sponsor of Collingwood and other sponsors have said they will not withdraw sponsorship or have said nothing. What message does this send out to their stakeholders, especially to their staff?

Authentic leadership is highly valued by an organisation’s stakeholders. In the work we do, the perceived lack of authenticity and therefore trust, loyalty and engagement is common, especially among staff. It’s time that organisational leadership confront this issue and become responsible for where they are inauthentic and the real impact this has on all aspects of the their organisation and society as a whole. Organisational culture is a function of this alignment or lack of alignment between word and behaviour. What kind of culture do you want in your organisation and are you prepared to be responsible for the consequences either way?

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