The opaque face of leadership

It’s 1989 and I’m on my way to the VT library at Sky Television to pick up a rushes tape. Unit 5, Centaurs Business Park (Eurosport offices) is linked to Unit 6 (where the library is) by a long, carpeted corridor. There is glass running along one side, providing a view of the Sky staff car-park; the opposite wall is lined with portraits of benevolent, smiling Sky News presenters.

I recognise the man coming down the corridor towards me from photographs. He is short, wrinkled and bald. He is expensively dressed. I know he owns the firm I work for and is my ultimate boss. In contrast, he knows nothing of me and, until now, has been undisturbed by my very existence.

Wishing to make an impression, and overwhelmed by the ‘elevator pitch’ nature of the situation, I blurt out what I think might be a suitable opener, something along the lines of “Mr.Murdoch, isn’t it time we did some more high budget, quality programming?”

Silence as Rupert Murdoch walks quickly past me, wincing slightly, as if bothered by a fly.

I’m reminded of this now, sitting at an outdoor table in sunny Exmouth Market, chatting to Nic Price, ex BBC Learning & Development (now working with the equally talented Gerred Blythe at Lighthouse Experience).

We’re talking about managers we’ve known and loved, and how web 2.0 type stuff is enabling corporate communication on a whole different level.

Like many of his former colleagues, Nic is full of praise for the BBC’s Director of Global News, Richard Sambrook. Sambrook was encouraged to start up a blog some years ago by the BBC’s then Head of Knowledge Management, Euan Semple.

The blog is well-written, insightful and pertinent, read by a growing international audience, as well as BBC insiders.

But what’s been particularly interesting, according to Nic, is how the blog has acted as a kind of virtual ice-breaker between Sambrook and his colleagues:

“Suddenly, people [at the BBC] were reading his blog and then feeling it was okay to talk to him when they saw him walking down the corridor. They felt they knew something about him, about the way he saw the world. They felt they could start a conversation.”

Of course, not all company executives can write. As Nic says, there’s nothing worse than the ‘CEO diary’ which has been written by a PR person.

But they don’t have to blog, do they? Maybe they’d be more suited to a Youtube channel, or a Flickr page?

Or, as Nic says:

“They could just sit in the canteen on a Friday afternoon and buy people coffee. That’s participative. That’s web 2.0”

Sadly, none of this can help with the memory of my encounter with a stoney-faced Rupert Murdoch. Maybe if I’d been more familiar with his hobbies and interests, our meeting would have been different. Anyway, I guess Murdoch already has his blog. It’s called “The Times”.