July 25, 2011

Rupert Murdoch Taught Me an Important Lesson Last Week

By Paul Bieber

He sure did. And I was surprised that I could learn from Mr. Murdoch. After all, I am a small businessman, ran a company with 250 employees, do a little consulting and writing now, and was nowhere in his multi-billion dollar league. So, I want to share with you what Mr. Murdoch taught me.

First, a little background. There are two results of learning by observing others. One way is that you observe someone doing something well; you take the same steps in your company, and lo and behold, your company is now doing something well. The other is to observe someone purposely stepping into a deep mud puddle, and saying to yourself, I should not follow in his footsteps.

To me, Mr. Murdoch stepped into the mud puddle relating to the telephone hacking scandal in Great Britain.

A British Member of Parliament asked, “Was he ultimately responsible for this criminal enterprise at his British Operation?” “No”, he replied, “I hold responsible the people that I trusted to run it and the people they trusted.”

Now, Mr. Murdoch is the Chairman of the Board and CEO of News Corp, which owned the newspapers involved. His family owns controlling interest in this multi-billion dollar company. Last time I went to school, I learned that the person in charge is responsible for everything. President Harry S. Truman said it best with a sign on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here”. You make the big bucks, you sign everyone else’s paycheck, you are responsible.

The surest route to ruining any organization is to not accept responsibility and to blame those under you. No employees will take risks after that. No one will respect you after that. No one will be eager to gain a promotion after that. No one will want to work for you after that.

A leader cannot side-step around taking responsibility. That is one of the very definitions of leadership. When you run your glass shop, or any business for that matter, you can be disappointed in an employee who makes a mistake; you can teach them, or ultimately you can fire them. But that does not take the place of accepting responsibility for every action that takes place in your organization.

Not that I ever would have wanted a job in Mr. Murdoch’s vast empire, but after his comments, I won’t even bother sending my resume.