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Banks just not playing cricket

By Chris Styles  November 06, 2018

​While leaders have many accountabilities and responsibilities, two stand out – strategy and culture – determining what an organisation should do, and how it should go about doing it.

This was highlighted in the release of the damning report into Cricket Australia conducted by The Ethics Centre.

At the heart of the report's findings is accountability and responsibility for the culture that has been created, from the senior leadership team to the players on the ground. 

To what extent are the leaders of Cricket Australia responsible and accountable for the culture of "arrogance", and an environment where, "people struggle to say 'no' to people in positions of power and influence, which further enables leadership and power to be centralised"?

We need strong leadership that makes it clear we do the right thing, and play fair.

The parallels between what happened in banks and cricket are stark.

The author of the report into cricket, Simon Longstaff, recently appeared on a panel at a UNSW Business School alumni event focusing on the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry

Longstaff made the point that generally in society we walk down the street and don't expect to be attacked, not because there is a law against it or a policeman on the street corner, but because it's the wrong thing to do.

This is engrained in our culture.

In some of the stories we have heard in the royal commission, the engrained culture was, in the words of commissioner Kenneth Hayne, greed, without counting the costs on people's lives. Charging fees with no service provided was OK if it led to higher margins (and bonuses).

On the field, the report says, the Australian male cricket team's engrained culture was all about winning, without counting the costs, which in many cases were on the game itself.

That led to an assumption that it was OK to sandpaper the ball if it gave the team the edge.

This is where leaders should have stepped in.

It is often in bad times rather than good that true leadership is needed. David Peever, who was chairman of Cricket Australia at the time, said the report was motivated by a desire to look in the mirror. 

However, his performance at the press conference where the report was released, and subsequently on the 7:30 Report when he said he didn't want to dwell on the negatives, was widely seen as unconvincing, particularly with respect to his own position.

He had been re-elected chairman a week prior to the report being released and has since resigned.

"While at times difficult to read and, in some instances, difficult to agree with what has been implied – Cricket Australia respects the review," Peever said in a note emailed to cricket fans following the report's release.

Spot the parallels with the banks.

The CEO of NAB, Andrew Thorburn, said he felt "ashamed" over some of the bank's actions that had come to light in the Hayne royal commission, and that he "agreed" with conclusions of the interim report, which highlighted a culture of greed.

While many are not in a mood to forgive the banks just yet, they welcome the open admission as a first step in fixing what has gone wrong.

Some would say the NAB's CEO had to say what he did – that it was obvious. 

Perhaps.

The same could have been expected from Peever's public appearances, but the reality was quite different. In contrast he appeared that he "wasn't embarrassed at all".

I, like many cricket tragics, hope this doesn't turn into a tragedy for Australian cricket, but rather is the start of renewal. Whether the under 8s or the national team, strong and principled leadership is needed from the top.

And that is the same with the banks. We need strong leadership that makes it clear we do the right thing, and play fair.

Professor Chris Styles is the Dean of UNSW Business School.

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