Ben Kepes on leadership


Clark made a more fundamental error, that in utterly misunderstanding what leadership is actually about. A few years ago I had the privilege of being awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award.

In my conversations around the time, I was forced to think about what leadership means – what is the basic statement one can use to describe at a fundamental basis what leadership is. What I came up with, while not anything earth-shattering, was that “leadership is about giving the credit and taking the blame.”

When things are going well, stand back and let ones’ team bask in the glory. But when things are going badly, step up and, in the way that Netanyahu epitomised, take on the hard stuff. Clark wasn’t even close to this, and I suspect his inability to stand by his DG will come back to haunt him.

Of course, the thing that makes this lack of leadership even more bizarre is the fact that, while his boss is displaying how not to be a leader, Ashley Bloomfield is doing exactly the opposite.

After all, it’s not like Dr Bloomfield personally let those quarantining patients out or missed giving them Covid tests. There are a huge number of Health Ministry employees who all made mistakes that contributed to the situation.

Showing leadership, however, Dr Bloomfield hasn’t mentioned those failings. Rather he stood up and accepted that, as the man in the top chair, he held the responsibility for the errors and omissions.

There are a huge number of Ministry employees who will have seen that and will have further been cemented in their respect and loyalty to their boss. A situation that any leader should aspire to.

Clark, on the other hand, firmly confirmed himself as a slippery operator who will kneecap those around him when he needs to and when he thinks he can get away with it.

I like his description of leadership as sharing the credit but taking the blame.

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