Elisabeth Murdoch’s MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival could have been cribbed from the Vogel Wakefield rule book.Discussing the phone hacking scandal that engulfed News Corporation last year, she demonstrated that at least one Murdoch sees the fundamental importance of alignment between values and behaviour in the family business. She said that News Corporation was “asking itself some very significant and difficult questions about how some behaviours fell so far short of its values.” And she took issue with the assertion by her brother James, at a previous MacTaggart lecture, that “the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit”. Not that she denied the importance of profit; rather, “profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster.”
I beg your forebearance in returning so soon to the leadership failings at News International. But no sooner did I publish my last post than it was overtaken by events. Rebekah Brooks saw the error of her ways and Rupert Murdoch issued this apology. Perhaps a retweet of my post reached their Twitter feeds.
Andrew Hill summarises the reasons why the timing and nature of this apology is unlikely to help Murdoch:
Mr Murdoch’s audience is understandably confused. If you set any store by the fad for corporate bosses to demonstrate their “authenticity” then the “authentic” Mr Murdoch was the ruthless mogul of July 3, the day before the outrage over the hacking of murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone broke, or the smiling patriarch, toughing it out with his arm round Ms Brooks earlier this week…
For some months I’ve had occasional thoughts of writing a blog post about the phone hacking scandal at News International. The reason I never got round to doing so until now is instructive. At some level, I doubted the point of deconstructing News International’s venality as this has appeared so self-evident to me since I was a schoolboy delivering newspapers that it seemed unremarkable.
In recent days, the pace of events has been so fast and the volume of commentary so large, that I doubted that I had anything distinctive to contribute. However, the affair prompts me to pull together some thoughts on the social purpose of business and why I’m convinced this is an increasingly important focus of leadership.