Insight article

Rebekah Brooks builds a rogue culture?

I’m sure there’s not a CEO around who hasn't been following the Rebekah Brooks story and thinking: ‘could that have been me?’ Not the phone hacking of course, but the wider issue of building rogue cultures. Ms Books left the office with Ben Parker's quote ringing in her ears: ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ But she maintains she never participated or endorsed the hacking.  So what was her role?

For many CEOs the issue of culture comes down to a set of values; words that the board came up with on a wet Wednesday afternoon, that neatly pop up on employees' screen savers whenever they stop working for a while. Job done… Leave the rest to those nice guys in HR. How many CEO’s consider that the real culture starts with them, and their stories?

On Friday, the Evening Standard gave us a couple of fascinating ones about our Rebekah. They told us of the time that she reserved a hotel suite for an interview with James Hewitt and told journalists to ‘kit it out with secret tape devices’. And the time that she disguised herself as a cleaner and hid for two hours in a bathroom to get access to The Sunday Times printing presses. She then ‘grabbed a copy of the freshly printed newspaper, which carried the serialisation of a new biography of Prince Charles, and ran with it to the NOTW, which cheerfully ripped off its sister paper's scoop word for word’.

Great stories. Stories that must have been shared around Wapping many times. Stories that say: ‘I, your CEO, built my career by going beyond the boundaries of conventional journalism to get a good story.’  The kind of stories that must have defined: ‘the way we do things around here.’

Values may help to define a culture, but it takes a good story to build one. And as Rebekah illustrates there is no better storyteller than the person at the top.

Nailia Tasseel