Recent news coming out of the headquarters of technology firm Mozilla has raised some very interesting questions over the relationship between the beliefs of a leader and how they can affect an organisation.
After a few days of rumblings, Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich, resigned. There had been calls for him to step down in light of his past support of an anti-gay marriage campaign.
The company’s chairwoman had stated: “I want to speak clearly on behalf of both the Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla Foundation: Mozilla supports equality for all, explicitly including LGBT equality and marriage equality.”
It is a difficult balance to maintain, when the values of an organisation do not match those of an individual, and it is clear that people work best when there is a strong alignment in this respect.
Let’s not mistake values and beliefs, here. They are two different things and an individual can hold any belief they like. The important thing to understand is that as soon as those beliefs are made public the potential for them to affect the organisation increases significantly. Unfortunately, stepping into a role of leadership makes it more likely that such things will come to the fore.
In the modern world, where there is such significance attached to diversity and equality, this has never been more the case and the ability of an individual leader to maintain his or her position can be seriously diminished in light of such revelations.
For many people, the increased scrutiny of leadership can come as a shock when they first attain such a position. It comes with the whole concept of leadership. One is put upon a pedestal and a leader at any level is inherently a position in which one is a role model.
It can be scary finding yourself under the spotlight and, instantly, more weight is put upon one’s words. We see it throughout business, as well as in politics, whether or not you believe the term role model still applies in that sphere.
As children, we played “follow my leader” and the theme follows us through life, but sadly very few of us make that connection when we step into the role.
By its very nature, leadership brings all of these elements with it and people have expectations which must be met. That is why leaders come in for such scrutiny; people look to them for guidance and they learn from their actions.
In a situation such as that at Mozilla, it was clear that the revelations about Mr Eich’s past had led to his position becoming less tenable, bringing with it a certain inevitability.
Sharon Klein is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development. www.azure-consulting.co.uk