A tale of two leaders

With apologies to Lord Browne for raking this up again, contrast the behaviour of the former BP chief exec who quit a fortnight ago today with that of World Bank boss Paul Wolfowitz, who should certainly have quit by now but has yet to.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Browne, by common consent one of the UK's finest business leaders of recent years, acted swiftly and with integrity in response to allegations about his private life and that he may have falsified details of how he met former partner Jeff Chevalier in a written statement to court. Subsequently he has retained his dignity and - equally importantly - the support of the vast majority of his corporate peers.

Now consider Paul Wolfowitz, a man who made his name as one of the architects of the war in Iraq. By way of a reward for this dubious achievement, he was made head of the World Bank, despite howls of protest from - well, from pretty much everyone who had anything to do with the World Bank. So clearly winning the trust and perhaps even respect of his new staff were going to be high on his ‘First 100 days' to-do list, right? Wrong. Instead, practically the first thing he did after unpacking the signed photo of Dubya that doubtless adorns his desk was to organise for his girlfriend a nice promotion and a big fat payrise - twice the going rate if some reports are to be believed.

When called to account for his actions by the Bank's board and ethics committee, he tried to brush it under the carpet. That didn't work so he tried plan B, the penitent sinner, and apologised to the bank's staff. Now even his uber-allies in the White House seems to be getting a bit fed up with him, but still he won't do the decent thing and quit, despite revelations that he has broken the World Bank code of conduct, three staff rules and the terms of his contract, to boot. How can he possibly hope to continue in his post after all that lot?

Once again - and not for the first time - business has shown politics how best to limit the damage caused by trouble at the top, and how to do it so that both the individuals involved - and more importantly, the organisation - live to fight another day.

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