Recently Gill McLachlan made a tough but very important call as boss of the AFL. He announced the resignation of two of his trusted lieutenants for not upholding a community standard that he and the AFL have publicly committed to. In doing so he made a clear and unambiguous statement about the organizational culture that wants to promote.
Gill couldn't walk by this one. Even though the ideas of mateship and loyalty are sacrosanct in the world of football, there was an ideal and a moral value that was more important. Instead of turning a blind eye or excusing it through some puny and ineffectual response, he acted decisively and quickly.
There are many leaders who may have walked by this one, and in doing so would have sent a signal within the AFL and the broader community that this behavior is okay, or at least tolerated. Culture is not a slogan on a wall, it is what you are prepared to walk past and say nothing about.
No doubt he was given clear direction from the AFL board and its chairman Richard Goyder, who is no stranger to building healthy cultures. Under his leadership there have been a number of large companies that have cultivated positive and sustainable corporate cultures such as at Coles and Bunnings.
Even so, it must have been tough for Gill. He must have felt his loyalties were in conflict - between his loyalties to his executives and his loyalty to an ideal that he signed up for when he took up the male champion of change as appointed by the Australian Human Rights Commission. This is the real test of someone’s true loyalties and values - what they choose when they are in conflict.
In many ways his choice was inevitable if he was serious about changing the culture of Australian football. It can’t have been easy though and I’m sure he had a number of restless nights and emotional moments. That is the truth of real leadership though; incredibly important and rarely easy.
Well-done Gill and the board of the AFL. We now know where you really stand.
*Image courtesy of the National Press Club