After a massive scandal ripped apart a relatively minor subsidiary within the global corporation News Corp, the aftershocks have forced their way right to the top. As a result, the previously untouchable Rupert Murdoch was made to experience the “most humble day” of his life, while answering probing questions from the House of Commons select committee.

While being questioned on his apparent lack of information concerning events, he responded: "nobody kept me in the dark, (although) I may have been lax in not asking".

This notion brings up some interesting challenges surrounding corporate responsibility – especially for those who are in charge of large and diverse organisations such as News Corp. With a company of this size, how much detail should leaders know? What is their liability for acts that they are unaware of? In short, where does the buck stop?

Ignorance is not bliss

When you think about it, it's absurd to think that leaders should know every last detail of each decision and event that occurs within their organisation. How could they? And indeed at the heart of leadership are the key concepts of trust, empowerment and delegation. Getting things done through others is inherent to the mechanism of successful leadership.

However, corporate responsibility extends to the culture of an organisation. In other words, leaders set the company's culture. The values, attitudes and procedures practised throughout stem from the very top. Whether they like it or not, the trickle-down effect of a leader’s cultural position is impossible to halt. A workforce will always reflect the ethos and spirit laid out by their bosses. In short, they’ll take the lead from their leaders.

So, while Mr Murdoch may have identified a lack of behavioural curiosity in himself for 'not asking', the bigger question is why no one felt it was their responsibility to tell him. Why did the culture of the place seem to work against a sense of openness?

Answer the important questions

At Potential Squared, we make sure that leaders take nothing for granted. That’s why we use a three-step leadership model – ‘I, We and Winning Leadership.’

At Potential Squared, we make sure that leaders take nothing for granted. That’s why we use a three-step leadership model – ‘I, We and Winning Leadership.’

The 'I' aspect helps leaders uncover the essence of their leadership beliefs and values (what's important to me). The 'We' part helps them clarify how they communicate and engage with people on these beliefs and values. And the 'Winning' stage ensures they see their corporate responsibilities as being leaders in the round – not just to be responsible for governance in a traditional sense, but also for the culture that runs like blood through a company’s veins, at its heart and soul.

So, no, leaders aren't expected to know everything. But yes, they should be expected to create an organisation which lives and breathes their values. And they should also see the task of growing and nurturing this culture as a significant part of their corporate responsibility. Above all, they should build trust and encourage openness. After all, as Rupert Murdoch has learned the hard way, a leader who is kept in the dark – no matter what the excuse – is no leader at all.