This study aims at researching leadership in relation to the British media scandal. It highlights the major events that led to the declaration that the scandal was the biggest ever in the media industry. The circumstances that eventually led to the scandal are analyzed and the possible reasons that led to the worsening of the case are highlighted, as well. Leadership has been put at fault at all levels and the specific issues that have led to the assertion that leaders were blamed for are discussed. In the same breath, the importance of effective leadership of an organization is discussed and elements of effective leadership are paid attention. Communication is considered one of the most important aspects of leadership. The importance of communication is continually proven, and the lack of this important feature in the company is discussed in depth. Some of the strategies that could have been used to reverse the experience that transpired the News of the World case have been discussed as part of the plan that could be applied in the future to avoid the falling of the rest of the corporation, which is placed the second biggest media corporation in the world. The mistakes that the Murdoch, the leader of the company, committed and fully responsibility laid on him as the leader have been highlighted. A leadership statement is also made with an incorporation of the ideas used to develop the whole paper. The ethical issues that were violated during the whole phone hacking scandal are then discussed as well as the effects of the scandal to the corporation. Finally a conclusion brings together all the ideas that are important in the process of effective leadership in order to see whether an organization is successful or unsuccessful in all its undertakings while using this leadership.
Since the existence of man, leadership has been a vital element in enhancing co-existence with different people. It is a very significant social aspect because it provides the society with a progressive or retrogressive development. Even the wild animals elevate one of their group members to take the leadership position (Hornett & Fredericks, 2005). The process of picking up a leader follows a path where a unique and more outstanding individual in the group gets the acceptance and recognition from all representatives of the group. In wild animals, the strength and fighting prowess often become the main criterion, but the development in the human society follow a different path altogether. Leaders could be trained or are natural. Generally, leadership refers to the process where one influences the social undertakings in order to achieve a common goal within that society (Hornett & Fredericks, 2005).
There are a lot of forms of leadership, for example, reactive leadership. It is largely characterized by the situation where the leader solves the issue at hand without a consideration of the future implications of the steps he / she has taken to solve the present issue. It is often characterized with following the existing rules in making the decision, unlike proactive leadership, which follows principles in making the decision. The leader makes decisions without involving the rest of the team, and in most cases, the interest of the leader takes the center stage.
The process of punishing the people who make mistakes is quickly taken, which makes the form of leadership unpopular among the subjects (Hornett & Fredericks, 2005).
Challenges of Leadership
There are a lot of challenges involved with reactive form of leadership since it focuses on the immediate issues that need to be dealt with. Running an organization requires that one is fully conversant with all the processes in the organization and make sure that the right decisions are made at all times. It is a challenge because the articulation of every individual within workforce into a single working system is never an easy task (Mark, 2002). In this case, the subjects may uphold their differences making the steps taken unfruitful. However, it is not the major challenge of reactive leadership. Since the decisions made are instantaneous and rapid, the long term implications of these decisions are left aside and disregarded. It keeps the problems solved recur and prove to be a nag. Further, since the team of subjects is not involved in the decision making, there are difficulties in case the leader is changed. There are no concrete points that the new leader can take up from making the transition difficult. It is a key challenge that reactive leadership poses to the organization. It is important to measure the success or failure of a leadership strategy to ensure that the sustainability of the organization is guaranteed. The measurement or assessment of the leadership plan should be done periodically (Hickman, 2010). Some of the methods that could be used include the use of history, where the management team determines whether past problems recur. If they do, the team should determine whether it could be attributed to the methods that were used to solve them in their initial occurrences. Many recurring problems show poor leadership. Another way that the success can be measured is through the use of questionnaires taken among the employees. Employees are the people who ensure that all the management strategies are being followed and that deadlines are met (Hickman, 2010). If none of these are achieved tithing the given timelines; the leadership is questionable and responsible for the failure. Employee satisfaction shows good leadership and increased punitive cases show poor leadership (Hickman, 2010). At the same time, the success of the corporate social responsibility of the organization could be used to determine the success or failure of the leader in an organization. Further, the success can be evaluated through the output valuation. The low output shows poor leadership, while the reverse is true. However, it is important to have it in mind that a positive result in the combination of all the above-mentioned cases would provide the best leadership. High output and poor employee satisfaction or poor corporate social responsibility is a show of poor leadership. It is, therefore, vital that all the components are applied together to determine the performance of the leader (Mark, 2002; Hickman, 2010).
The British Media Scandal
The case of the British media scandal is a good example of the effects of reactive leadership. Rupert Murdoch was the chairperson and the Chief Executive Officer in News Corporation, which is the mother to News International. He was in charge of the company as many leadership faults were made. The scandal involved the acquisition of information through illegal ways, such as bribing police officers in exchange for confidential information. They also illegally intruded in the privacy of some of the people by accessing phone calls and voice messages. Murdoch was accused of letting his company continue making these illegal operations. Murdoch claimed that he was not fully aware of the means that his employees collected information. In his defense, he claimed that he was responsible for managing over 50 institutions, and if one made errors, he could easily not know. It was a lame excuse, and his company eventually accepted to compensate some of the charges that were filed against it. It eventually led to the closure of one of the company newspaper, The News of the World, in July 10, 2011. It was a highly significant effect of the scandal, bringing down the closure of a daily newspaper that was in existence for over 168 years.
Rupert Murdoch was at fault for his leadership. All the illegal means that the company used to obtain information could have probably been put to his knowledge at some point. This is because the company had spent millions of pounds on bribes to obtain information. With such spending, the top management team was probably aware of the means that the company used to obtain information. He can, therefore, be perceived to authorize illegal activities done by his junior staff. This leaves him at full fault and his poor reactive leadership responsible for the illegal business.
Murdoch was a reactive leader who solved the current issues and failed to delve into the implications of his immediate decisions to the future of his company. The investigations into the illegal behavior started in 2005, which means that there were other activities that had been recorded prior to the beginning of the investigation. This meant that the company could have been undertaking the illegal activities for a long time to catch the attention of the investigators. By the time they started to hack into the Prince’s voicemail, they must have invaded other smaller people’s voice mails. In case all this were known, Murdoch’s leadership would ensure that the issue was solved, but would happen to another person or corporation. This was a poor leadership strategy that eventually led to the closure of the News of the World. It is, therefore, paramount that leaders determine the best ways to make and implement decisions (Fisher, 2004). When people make mistakes as Murdoch made, there could be dire consequences that could eventually lead to the fall of the organization that one leads. Murdoch’s failure was a good example on how reactive leadership can result in the falling of even the biggest corporations. Decisions need to be made with the sustainability of the organization in mind, to ensure that there would be no recurrence of the same problem in the end.
The manner in which an organization management team is organized is vital in determining whether the manner in which the leader carries out his necessary duties (Hornett, & Fredericks, 2005). In the case of British media, Rupert Murdoch was the senior leader because he owned the companies. During the testimonies over the phone hacking scandal, it was alleged that the corrupt deals were authorized by senior members of the team. This was a reflection of Murdoch’s responsibility over the whole saga. The organization of senior personnel in this case had a very essential role in the development of the scandal. During the trial, Murdoch was declared unfit to run an organization as complex and large as the one he headed. He testified along with his son which meant that the two were among the senior-most people in the organization, which led to family power supremacy. They owned the company and they made the decisions. If the saga was to be overlooked, the company needed to come up with another management team, and in this case exempt the father and son leadership. They had already admitted to being part of the scandal and they could not deny the unethical leadership they had exercised. It was therefore important to break up the leadership relationship in order to allow other people who were more law and privacy conscious to run the organization. However, we cannot fully condemn the two for being part of the scandal because there were many more people who were involved and who were not taken to trial. The leadership needed a thorough reshuffle from top to bottom to ensure such an occurrence is not experienced again.
Foundations for Leadership
Leadership is a tough art that people are naturally gifted to exercise or are trained to exercise. Whether acquired through natural means or through training, leadership has many challenges that the leader has to resolve at any given moment. The leader has to make decisions that no one else can make, and in case the decisions were wrong and had dire consequences, the leader takes full responsibility. A good example can be genocide cases where the person who mobilizes the crowd is held responsible for everything the crowd did, regardless of his un-involvement in the actual deeds. This is one of the challenges of leadership. The instructions given by a leader are supposed to have positive effects, and in case the contrary happens, the leaders suffer the consequences.
Another leadership challenge is the fact that leaders may not be in full control of all situations. Some factors, such as the weather and other calamities, are beyond his / her abilities, yet he / she is required to make decisions that factor in the effects of these natural occurrences. Murdoch’s case was, however, different in that the cases involved were basically human controlled. The illegal deeds needed authorization and his leadership and management strategies allowed the corrupt ways of acquiring information. Though Murdoch claimed that the illegal activities happened without his knowledge, since he claimed to control over 53000 people and The News of the World carried only 1% of that, he probably had something to do with the signing of money to bribe the police to give out classified information.
Another challenge that leaders face is the fact that they need to have a look at the major outlook of their decisions. A leader needs to examine all the possible outcomes as a result of his / her decision. He / she, therefore, needs to be very smart and wise so that his / her organization may not suffer after his / her decision implemented. By letting his people carry out illegal collection of information, Murdoch discredited his ego and leadership skills after becoming a king in the media industry. He knows what could transpire if his company deeds came to light, yet he let his employees go ahead with the corrupt deals. This shows incompetence and disrespect of the rule of law. He should have assessed the effects of the disclosure of the illegal operations and put a stop to them before the worst had happened. His poor judgment on the effects of using illegal means to acquire information led to closure of The News of the World, which was in circulation for over one-and-a- half centuries.
Leaders have to possess a great understanding of the environment they work in, especially the legal requirements. When his founded company, News International, acquired the News of the World newspaper, Murdoch could be taken at fault of not being keen to determine the legal obligations that surrounded people in the United Kingdom. It was a basic issue that he should have looked into before going ahead to authorize hacking of phone communication. Furthermore, his company made a big mistake by hacking prince’s voicemail. This could have been avoided if he had critically looked at the legal environment. At the same time, the social environment was a vital issue he needed to look into. To gain the support of the people, he needed to come up with strategies that were appealing to the people so that, in case his deeds became known, the people would be behind him. When the government started to investigate the case of Prince’s phone hacking, he received more accusations that were aimed at his newspaper. The public showed their discontent over the newspaper, ultimately leading to its closure. To make it even worse, Murdoch resigned as a board member of News International in 2012 after the mounting pressure over his past deeds.
Leadership demands that the leader changes tactics any time the situation demands (Avery & Bell 2004). Rigidity in leadership often leads to the fall of the organization in question. Due to the dynamic society today, there is a need that leaders apply the correct strategies as per the situation. The changes in technology and revision of legal and political situations have led to the need for leaders to be conscious about the way they control their employees. Media freedom has been lobbied for by many people, and journalists have the right on privacy, over the means that they use to acquire information. However, there is a limit to this since they should no misuse their freedom. Among the accusations that people made against The News of the World was the fact that they made public information that they had earlier on promised to treat as private. It was unethical according to the media standards, and Murdoch was held responsible for this. When the public came out in protest over the newspaper, Murdoch needed to change tactics of acquiring information to more friendly ways. Even after the 2005 investigation, the company did not top its illegal deeds, and similar privacy charges were filed in 2006 and 2012. The company had been using private investigators to obtain information, and even after the public came out and cried foul of handling their information, the company did not change its tactics of obtaining information. It was a poor leadership strategy as it eventually led to the resignation of Murdoch from the News International board and the closure of the newspaper. It is, therefore, evident that there is a need for versatility for leaders whenever there appear new cases that they need to resolve. In case the leaders to a team is too rigid to the situation and wishes to continue with old tactics that have led to problems, there is a high likelihood of failure of the institution they lead.
In the modern world, there are emerging management principles that can be used to ensure that there is a smooth running of any institution (Drennan, 2004). There are new issues that are supposed to be taken into consideration to ensure that no management hitches are experienced. With the current improvement of technology and information systems, the media should be on the leading pack to take up the new developments since they boast of providing the public with the latest news and developments in all fields. Since leadership involves making decisions, there are new integrated information systems that have been developed to help managers and leaders in determining the best decisions in different situations (Drennan, 2004). Information systems, such as Decision Support System (DSS), allow managers to look at the cases critically and predetermine the outcomes. In case there seems to be negative outcomes in a decision, they are analyzed and the necessary measures taken as appropriate (Drennan, 2004).
Communication Strategies in the Company
As Avery & Bell (2004) noted, communication is a pillar in management, whether one is managing several persons or a multi billion global corporation like News International. Communication refers to the process where information is effectively passed from one person to another. Effective communication is realized when the recipient to the message or information understands the information in a way which the sender wants it to be. The best way to determine whether the information was relayed as desired, without misinterpretations, is through the assessment of the feedback. If the feedback is wrong, then the process of communication is equally not credible. Leadership revolves around communication as the leader issues his / her instructions to the rest of the team. It is, therefore, obvious that one key element that determines the quality of leadership is communication (Avery & Bell 2004).
Some of the communication strategies that were used in the case of News International had errors. As Murdoch claimed, he had no knowledge concerning the news that one of his papers, The News of the World, was spreading. He claimed that he did not know what was happening in the acquisition of the information his employees included in the print media. It was a lame excuse, being the CEO of the parent company that owned the tabloid, The News of the World. He needed to have communicated to his employees that the means through which they obtained information needed to be stopped and that there was no need of getting exciting news that could jeopardize the position of the newspaper. After the 2005-2007 probes, the company needed to change its strategies to regain its position in the national and global outlook. The company image was starting to get tainted, and the company was doing little to ensure that the existence was jeopardized. Murdoch was supposed to communicate to everyone that there was a need to leave the current strategies. He, however, did not do this and left the journalists with all the freedom, which eventually led the company to the lawsuits, due to the breach of privacy. If Murdoch did this, it was ineffective and there was no positive response from the employees. They continued to rely on the information they received from the hired investigative journalists. Eventually, the company leadership was held responsible for the breach of people’s privacy without their consent. Poor communication was to be blamed for the fall of the newspaper that was over 160 years old.
Proposed Leadership Plan
With the fall of The News of the World, and Murdoch’s resignation from the board of News International, we can state that the company leadership was faulty. Murdoch was taken in and was accused of the mistakes, which he did not deny, but claimed to have little knowledge about all. The cases of The News of the World being involved in illegal means of obtaining information increased as there was a series of cases reported accusing the newspaper of the breach of privacy. This meant that there was no credible leadership in the organization. Some of the issues that Murdoch should have critically taken into consideration include:
Proper Communication Channels
It is evident that there was a profound communication hitch between the company’s leadership and the employees. It is, therefore, important that they come up with the correct people to hold accountable in the communication channels. In this case, the leaders would not be accused, and there would have been an easier way to clean up the mess from the whole tabloid and organization, and narrow down to a few individuals. The case affected even the highest leaders, such as Murdoch. It gives an adverse effect on the peoples’ perception on the company The mother company owns other newspapers, such as The Sun, and it would only be vital for the company to retain the image of the rest of the tabloids clean. However, with the inclusion of the top managers involved in the saga, it is hard to shield the rest of the company products from the public’s poor reception.
To Issue an Immediate Apology
After the company was subjected to investigations, the top management and leadership team ought to have come out and apologized to the people involved to reduce the impact that the news would have on the public’s perception. It would have been an easy way to soften their way of taking the company and the newspaper at large. The best channel to do this would have been the same newspapers that caused discontent to the public. Another important way is through the social media to issue the apology. The company needed to own up the mistakes so that there was no perception of resistance, which would eventually lead to the loss of confidence in the whole company and all their products. It is vital for the company to be transparent, take actions, and remove the people involved in the illegal deeds, and then announce the public how far these people have gone in doing such things.
To Increase their Level of Corporate Social Responsibility
Once the company and its leaders realized that their image had been tainted, they needed to immediately go to the public and intensify their CSR in order to have the public backing. No matter how many suits that were filed against them, they would not have lost their customers, and the tainted image would have been clearer if they had responded to the initial accusations. It was a very gross blunder because the company and newspaper assumed that everything was normal and continued with their normal operations.
To Examine the Rest of the Industry Environment
The media has been an important tool in the society. Whatever happens in one media house may have a significant effect on others. It is important for one to have a look at, in case their organization was affected as The News of the World was. There was a need for the company leadership to make talks with the rest of the media houses and try to convince them to put little emphasis on their case. This would reduce the impact of the saga on News International, and there could have been less influence on the company. A mutual agreement to reduce the impact of the saga by other media houses would have been a commendable idea.
Leadership is supposed to be an interactive process and one that ensures that there is total effectiveness in communication. Poor communication is among the biggest factors that lead to the fall of a corporation. It is, therefore, vital that leaders come up with the correct communication strategies to ensure that the process is successful. Furthermore, there is a need to clear out responsibilities once an error has occurred. When a corporation makes a mistake, yet no one is supposed to take full responsibility, it proves to be a very uncomfortable status since the whole organization is held responsible for it.
Ethical Deficiencies in the Scandal
Right to Privacy
The whole scandal revolved around the invasion of people’s right to privacy. The News of the World hired private investigators to obtain information for them. They also paid the police in exchange for confidential information. Ethically, these are gross and unacceptable cases that should never occur. The right to privacy is vital and the strategy that the newspaper used was socially and legally offensive to the people whose privacy was intruded without their consent. It was even worse when the information was illegally obtained from the phone voicemail of one of the members of the royal family. This showed disrespect to the leadership, as well as the citizens. By the time they reached the extent of invading the royal family, it is possible that they had violated the rights of many other less powerful citizens, which is a very unethical activity.
Non-Issue of Apologies when Necessary
The News of the World experienced a series of accusations during its final decade of existence. From 1998, it was always under investigations with accusation of intruding into other people’s privacy. The media house was always quick to deny because there was always little evidence that could fully convict them. The News of the World continued with the unethical issues but did not bother to apologize to the people who got hurt along the way. By the time they finally accepted that they had been violation the rights of the people that damages were irreparable and had to eventually close. Pride and arrogance towards the people led to the whole closure because it is important for the media to issue apologies whenever their activities raise uproar from the people. If the people are complaining and no one listens to them, the whole reporting and social responsibility becomes highly questionable.
Taking responsibility of any mistake that is done by employees is supposed to be an ethical requirement to the leaders. They should first salvage the company by creating the right image to the public, before releasing a report of the people or person who was responsible. Instead of this, the management disowned the whole issue when Murdoch said that News of the World was less than 3% of all the people and departments that he controls. He tried to imply that it was not his responsibility to know the ways that his journalists obtained information. This statement discredits him as unfit to lead the team, since he was not aware of what was happening in some of the news releases that were supposed to be under his watch.
The impact of the saga on the corporation was too heavy that one of its newspapers was closed. In their last issue after being in circulation for over 160 years, The News of the World apologized for the misfortune that had befallen the whole organization. It remorsefully explained that there was no longer to be other issues to The News of the World. It was a very gross consequence of the scandal. It showed the magnitude of irresponsibility and disrespect for people’s right to privacy from a section of the whole organization, News International. This would eventually lead to lack of confidence as well as a negative attitude to the news that was broadcast by the corporation. It would seem that any investigative news had violated the privacy rights of a person. This not only affected the News International, but also the whole media industry at large (Bazilian, 2011).
The strength of the corporation in the stock market was also reduced, with investors taking a step backwards in the fear of any other allegation against the company. The share price eventually reduced while Murdoch went out to testify about the whole scandal. It, however, picked up again and remains the major media house in the world.
Leadership is a vital aspect in the modern society. It involves guiding people to a certain goal. Business ethics are an essential part of the discipline in any industry and corporation. It is, therefore, important that there are adequate leadership standards that help the organization achieve its goals, vision, and mission. To avoid conflicts within an organization, there is a need for proper communication and adequate collective leadership before the vital decisions are made. Furthermore, there is a need to solve issues as early and quick as they appear to avoid negative effects on the company images. In order to come up with the best management and leadership decisions, modern strategies are used. Decision support systems are getting popular, and many organizations are using them to ensure that the decisions they take are favorable to the people as well as the corporation. The use of the social media is a very effective way to reduce negative impacts that an organization may have on a society. It is equally a very effective channel that people and organizations can use to clear up their tainted images. Since it has been termed as one of the most efficient ways to spread news, it would be equally useful in making the correct image concerning an organization being paid to at the right place and time. Poor leadership is an aspect that can bring down a big corporation as it did to the News of the World. It also led to the resignation of the founder, who shows the gross effects of poor leadership.