In the wake of corporate scandal and senior resignations at Shell UK, its
chairman, Clive Mather, has admitted that leaders need more humility and that
good role models are hard to find.
"One of the dangers of seniority is that it reinforces your ego and
reduces humility, I’ve had a tough day and I feel extremely humble," Clive
Mather, chairman of Shell UK told HR professionals after the City was rocked by
one of the biggest corporate scandals in 20 years.
Mather’s ‘tough day’ stemmed from shock confessions by senior Shell
executives that they had repeatedly lied to Shell investors about the true
level of the energy giant’s oil and gas reserves – and then covered up the
The world’s third biggest oil business joins a string of corporate scandals,
such as WorldCom and Enron, and raises questions about integrity levels among
today’s business leaders.
Mather, who is also head of learning at Shell International, was speaking at
a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development debate on whether investment
on training within organisations gave real returns. He warned that good role
models among business leaders to showcase the training and development of staff
were now difficult to find.
"There are too many leaders portrayed in the media as insular and
egocentric," he said. "That’s not leadership. Leadership is
exercising [business goals and success] through others, not through oneself.
"And at the heart of good leadership is humility. Not many leaders of
organisations understand that concept," he added
But Andrew Kakabadse, professor of international management at Cranfield
University, denied business leaders were suffering from a lack of integrity. He
said they were increasingly pressurised by ever-spiralling demands from equity
markets for higher shareholder value, leading to scandals like the one at
"Shareholder value is beginning to see the end of the day," said
Roger Gill, director of research at the Leadership Trust, agreed.
"Top management are under almost unbearable pressure to meet escalating
shareholder demand, plus demands from others including the Government,"
said Gill. He added that the pressure was "denting moral courage and the
resilience to stick with what we believe in".
By Penny Wilson