A recent event at an organisation that I once worked for has questioned a number of friends and colleagues around our concepts of responsibility and community leadership.
Management theory has for a long time avoided the question of post-employment responsibility apart from the direct legal implications, but when does a retrospective accountability exist and should it exist? Even those at the forefront of public sector thinking probably avoid this conundrum even though it is well embedded in the historical concept of society and especially civil society.
Consider the scenario where you have been previously part of the senior team that has been responsible for establishing an exceptional organisation:
- that is accountable for as the custodian of significant community services,
- that has high degree of brand recognition (world wide),
- But has now struggled to meet this expected standard over the last 3 to 4 years and has many people concerned.
Do you have any moral or ethical responsibility if you are not employed by them?
Generally, management guru’s and consultants would clearly articulate that you have no direct responsibility and those that are into cultural transformation would tell you to get over it and move on. How many times have I heard that?
However, if there is only one thing that is certain in the history of human beings, the best things occur because people care, irrespectively if they are directly responsible.
The Victorian state in Australia has lead the world in developing leaders who care through the community leadership model. Leadership Victoria with over 25 years of developing leaders and the famous Cranlana program have instilled this sense of (moral and ethical) leadership in an important cohort of individuals. So with this fabric of leadership, is it possible to have this debate over this retrospective accountability?
Over 15 years ago, I had interaction with a group of leaders in the Province of British Columbia (Canada) who were former employees of a government organisation that was going through change. They came together as an “Elders” group to help and support the organisational leadership. This was more than just an Alumni and I hadn’t experienced anything similar in Australia. It was a very mature and responsible approach. It was a model I know other leaders in this sector had examined.
So what degree of accountability exists for those that have no direct management obligation?
And does it matter if an important institution falters? This is not to say that it shouldn’t change and maybe it should but the ideals and values of the public service provided by the entity don’t.
And in this context “what is public service” – if it is not to care?
With that it is appropriate to reflect on a quote from Sir Gus……