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The Alchemy of Leadership Blog

Reverse Gear


So, farewell then, Jeremy Clarkson.  As an avid consumer of Top Gear, I was very sad to see the talented presenter go.  I wrote last week about the differing treatment handed out in the media to Jeremy and to the leaders at HSBC; and how the BBC was criticised for daring to think about firing him.  Over 1 million people petitioned the broadcaster to keep him.  But once the details of his behaviour were made clear – an expletive-filled rant, topped off with physical violence, all aimed at a blameless colleague – criticism quickly died away.

The BBC has handled this difficult situation very well, I think.  They took the incident seriously, investigated it carefully, took a considered decision and then explained it meticulously.  The Director-General issued a balanced statement, paying tribute to Jeremy’s work and achievements.  He recorded a video which came across as measured, balanced and fair.  It was clear the D-G wished it were not necessary to sack Clarkson; given what had happened, there was really no choice.

I like Top Gear a lot, but I can only agree.

The BBC has come under enormous pressure since the Savile scandal to make sure that big-name presenters follow the same behavioural rules that “normal” people do.  Celebrities don’t attract the same uncritical attention they did a few years ago.  In addition, society has become much more attuned to bullying behaviour and this is now seen as unacceptable.  Things have changed.  Workplace behaviour reflects these societal changes.  For anyone in a leadership position, it’s essential you ensure your organisation fulfils changed expectations.  A good thing, too.

© Patrick Macdonald 2015

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