Thursday, May 27, 2010

You cannot lead from your table at the pub

Proof of a government culture of process, not leadership - and I’d doubt it’s limited to these individuals:
AS Victoria burned on Black Saturday in Australia’s worst peacetime disaster, none of those who were in command showed any real leadership, but instead were passive, as though they were “powerless, behind the glass, unable or unwilling to influence or attempt to influence the tragedy that was unfolding”.

There was a bewildering and lamentable lack of leadership, said counsel assisting the bushfires royal commission Jack Rush, in a brutal final submission that eviscerated the reputations of former police chief Christine Nixon, Country Fire Authority chief Russell Rees and the state’s senior emergency services personnel.

No one at the top level distinguished themselves, Mr Rush said, as communities were engulfed by fire, often without warning, leaving 173 people dead. Not Ms Nixon, who knew when she went out for a pub meal that the state was facing a disaster; nor Mr Rees, who was divorced from fundamental aspects of his responsibilities. Ewan Waller, chief fire officer of the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and senior CFA officers Geoff Conway and Steve Warrington all failed to ensure clear and timely warnings reached communities, he said.

Mr Rush said those who oversaw the disaster at the Integrated Emergency Co-ordination Centre adopted a passive management style, lacking in initiative, almost without exception, and took the position that “it was not my responsibility”.
Rush gives a rather good lecture on leadership:
In comments clearly directed at Ms Nixon, Mr Rush said: “Command demands a presence both to inform and, if necessary, reassure and inspire. Leadership and command is not exercised by a retreat to so-called co-ordination, or to broad oversight. Leadership and command is not exercised by being available, if necessary, at the end of a telephone. It is unacceptable, in the submission of counsel assisting, that at the height of the fire and emergency, as people sought refuge in CFA sheds, at ovals, on main streets, as others fought, many in vain, to save themselves and their families, that those at the apex of the legislative structure in this state were not present, actively on duty, exercising and showing leadership by their presence at this critical time.

“This removal of responsibility and accountability is heightened by the fact that there was a clear knowledge of the disaster that was to come.

“In our submission, no excuse or spin can justify what we say is a removal from the responsibility at the very hour of crisis.”

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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